The Perfect of the title can mean many things. It may be the way that Byron's mother tries to behave, because that is how her husband Seymour wants things. Who would want a Stepford Wife? A difficult thing to live up to, and following the news that two seconds were to be added to time in 1972 because time itself was out of joint with Earth's movement, Byron begins to panic that things cannot therefore be perfect. It is that panic that causes an accident. Not fatal, not even nasty, but the events which follow make Byron and his friend James conspire to make things perfect again. We have two stories beautifully woven together within the covers. One set over a few short months in the Summer of 1972, where following that little accident, things seem first to be out of kilter at Bryron's home, and second when Bryon and his best friend James try to make things right again, when perhaps leave well alone would have been a better bet. The other story is now. Jim, who has been in and out of mental hospitals since his teens, is finally discharged for ever when his current hospital closes down. He has little rituals he has to perform, and he knows he is different. He has no friends, he lives in a broken down motor home, and works as a table clearer in the cafe of a large store. How Jim and the two boys are linked will become clear towards the end of the book, but before you get there you will gasp as I did when adults behave badly, whether to Byron and James, or to Jim, and you will have some tears to shed as the truth unfolds.
Rachel Joyce is clearly a people observer. She, like most of us, has met adults who show their dislike of people who are different; kids who don't always understand what they see or hear, and also, adults who have no idea of the effect of what their words thoughts and deeds might be upon children. But her keen observation has produced a story that I am unlikely ever to forget.
It is a thriller, a love story, a reflection on how when kids get things wrong there are knock-on effects, but the important thing is that it's a well-told tale, and yet it seems not to have got the kudos that Harold Fry did. I wonder why? I believe it to be the superior book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.