Byron Hemming’s best friend James Lowe told him it was to balance the clock with the movement of the earth. Byron considered James the smartest guy in school, so naturally he hung on to his every word even though he feared the worst.
“The idea appalled him. And even though James had talked about how exciting this was…the thought of tampering with the natural order of things has grown and grown in Byron’s mind. Time was what held the world together. It kept life as it should be.”
And then it happened. Late for school one day, Byron’s mother makes a devastating mistake. Byron’s perfect world is shattered by the two added seconds to time. But it seems that only he has noticed that time has changed and his life has followed suit. He is ridden with worry to fix the deadly mistake his mom has made in those two extra seconds, but he doesn’t know how to right the wrong. He can’t tell James, who for one seems preoccupied and has already moved on to the next great thing, plus also telling James would feel like he was betraying his mom. No, he decides that only he can fix this mistake and make things perfect again. Byron assumes worse was yet to come. This obsessive worrying and trying to fix things allows the reader to identify with the character – especially one so young – who has to take the burden of keeping a secret for the entire family. Will he be able to calm the chaos in his head to make things right?
“It was the same with time, he thought, and also sorrow. They were both waiting to catch you. And no matter how much you shook your arms and hollered, they knew they were bigger. They knew they would get you in the end.”
Rachel Joyce manages to keep us on our toes with Perfect. There are actually two parallel, but equally as compelling stories in the novel, one with Byron as the antagonist, and the other about a fifty-something year old man named Jim. Seemingly separate narratives, the wheels in our head pedal unceasingly to try and make a connection between the two. Rachel Joyce manages to keep us guessing until almost the very end.
“Maybe it was as simple as believing things were what you wanted them to be? Maybe it was all it took? If there was anything Byron had learned that summer, it was that a thing was capable of being not one but many different things, and some of them contradictory. Not everything had a label. Or if it did, you had to be prepared to re-examine that label from time to time and paste another alongside it. The truth could be true, but not in a definite way. It could be more or less true; and maybe that was the best a human being could hope for.”