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400 pages; Random House
This tenderly intricate second novel cements its author's status as a rising star.

Rachel Joyce burst onto the literary scene in 2012 with her fiction debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which went on to become an international best-seller. She triumphantly returns with Perfect, a novel that plunges the reader into a dizzyingly off-kilter world where "time was out of joint with the movement of the Earth," mirroring the chaos in the young protagonist's mind.

Eleven-year-old Byron Hemmings is a nervous boy; his imagination runs wild when his best friend, James, casually mentions that the British government is adding two seconds to the clock to offset the 1972 leap year. "Two seconds are huge," Byron says to his mother, Diana. "It's the difference between something happening and something not happening." His prediction appears prescient: On a foggy morning when they're en route to school, an accident occurs and the family's previously peaceful life is smashed into a million pieces.

In an alternating narrative is Jim's saga. Jim is a middle-aged loner with a stutter and painful memories of electroshock treatment whose OCD prompts him to perform rituals that act as a kind of salve. The mystery at the heart of his tale: Who is he?

As Joyce probes the souls of Diana, Byron and Jim, she reveals—slowly and deliberately, as if peeling back a delicate onion skin—the connection between the two stories, creating a poignant, searching tale.
— Abbe Wright