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Paperback Perfect Life Book

ISBN: 0393304590

ISBN13: 9780393304596

Perfect Life

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Good

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Book Overview

In this smart and engaging follow-up to her well-received debut, The Hazards of Good Breeding, Shattuck focuses on three privileged Gen X college roommates who are now grown up, coupled up, and raising kids in pre-recession Boston. The cracks in their perfect lives begin to show when the most precocious of the trio, a gorgeous striver named Jenny whose husband is infertile, makes the unconventional decision to have a baby with a sperm donation from...

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

No plot summary, just one reader's reaction

I immediately was intrigued by this group of characters- so incredibly different in personalities and lifestyles, yet linked together from their college years, a time that stays with us as an ever-important formative period. Each character's take on a 'perfect life' was unique and brought to light a new perspective, and I really respected that the author didn't shove the novel's theme down the reader's throat-- there was enough subtlety to each character's eventual revelations that I was able to appreciate the connecting threads without it feeling too campy or forced.

Generation X grows up, sort of.

Jessica Shattuck's "Perfect Life" takes a satirical look at a group of former college chums in their mid-thirties who are, in some ways, still floundering emotionally. Neil Banks, in a moment of madness, agrees to donate his sperm to ex-girlfriend Jenny Callahan, whose husband is infertile. Laura Trillian adores her two young daughters, but her spouse, Mac, is too preoccupied with closing deals to pay much attention to his family. Molecular biologist Elise Farber has a gay partner, Chrissy, and two boys whom Chrissy conceived via an anonymous donor. For a number of reasons, Elise feels left out of Chrissy's birthing experience and her growing resentment threatens their relationship. Shattuck draws us into the world of privilege in which these Bostonians live. The children have nannies, wear lovely clothes, and are destined to go to expensive private schools. Although the moms are all loving parents, each has issues that she is failing to address. Jenny is a bossy perfectionist who wants a neatly-ordered existence with no guesswork. In her opinion, "sloppiness and spontaneity breed unease." Laura is alienated from her husband ("It felt often as if she were invisible.") but lacks the courage to confront him with her dissatisfaction. Neil is in some ways, more lost than the rest of his former pals put together. He takes a job designing video games, but secretly longs to finish the research he had begun about an obscure American explorer. He is disgusted with himself for giving up his academic goals. After Jenny gives birth to Neil's biological child, to whom he signed away all rights, he becomes pathologically obsessed with the infant. "Perfect Life" has some elements of soap opera along with satire and social commentary. There are plot lines concerning adultery, stalking, and serious illness that, fortunately, do not veer into melodrama. The author touches on the guilt and frustration of mothers who want to both nurture their children and realize their potential as working women. Shattuck is an inventive and crisp descriptive writer ("For Laura, getting out the door with the girls every morning was like launching a rocket ship.") whose well-crafted prose and sharply-honed dialogue flow smoothly. We come to understand and care about the main characters, warts and all, since the author takes the time to portray them as basically good-hearted, albeit troubled and somewhat self-absorbed, individuals. One throwaway character, a sexual predator named Galena, is tossed in the mix to wreak havoc; she is a one-dimensional opportunist with no redeeming features. There are some amusing comic moments here and there, and the camaraderie between the friends is warmly and realistically depicted. Shattuck wisely wraps up the proceedings briskly, without irritating twists and turns. The ironic title refers to the pipe dream of men and women who expect everything to fall into place automatically: devoted spouse, good health, beautiful chi
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