Tag Archives: Kevin Wilson

PERFECT LITTLE WORLD by Kevin Wilson

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson is not a perfect book, but it’s a really interesting one. It’s about a 19 year-old woman named Izzy who gets pregnant on the eve of her high school graduation. The father is her art teacher, and when she tells him she is pregnant and wants to keep the baby, he has a breakdown and tells her he doesn’t want her to keep it. The teacher’s rich parents, who learn of the pregnancy and want to get Izzy out of the picture, connect her with a new social experiment funded by a very wealthy friend of theirs. In this experiment, ten families with newborns will move into a state of the art group home complex to have the babies raised communally, with all of the advantages they could ever want, to see whether such an upbringing has a significant impact on child development. Determined to have the baby, broke, and with no family to support her, Izzy decides to join the project.

The Infinite Family Project, as it’s called, requires its participants to commit to ten years in residency. The children are not told until their 5th birthday who their biological parents are, and at that time they move in with their parents instead of living in the communal setting. Most of the book is told through the eyes of Izzy, the only single parent there.

Perfect Little World raises a lot of questions about parenting and identity, as these parents grapple with the instinct to be close to their own children despite their commitment to them all. But I think that the book could have gone deeper. Wilson’s parents face a number of challenges – such as some infidelity among the group or differences in theories of discipline – but they are dealt with quickly. With 19 parents involved, realistically there would be more conflict and disagreement about how the children should be raised. And I didn’t feel that I got to know most of the characters other than Izzy and Dr. Grind, the head of the project, very well at all. A few stood out, but most were indistinct. I wanted more dynamics, more conflict, more there there. It also took a long time to get to the project – there’s a lot of setup as Izzy’s circumstances are established – but then the treatment of the project is disappointingly shallow.

Strangely, my issues with Perfect Little World arose after I read it, when I started thinking about what to write in this post. I actually enjoyed the book a lot while I was reading it. Wilson is a good writer: he’s funny, sharply observant, and occasionally gently mocking of the preciousness of the Infinite Family Project. But he has a lot of empathy for his characters, despite the bad decisions some of them make.

My enjoyment of Perfect Little World was undoubtedly enhanced by the exquisite narration of Therese Plummer. Plummer is one of my favorite narrators of all time. She never hits a false note, and her narration seems to be imbued with deep respect for the work she’s performing. She differentiates her characters beautifully, and she gets both male and female characters equally right. From the 80 year-old project benefactor to Izzy’s redneck enemy in the complex, Plummer gave them each a distinctive, memorable voice that was just pitch perfect. It was a pleasure to listen to Perfect Little World on audio. It sounded like Plummer was having a good time too.

Despite its shortcomings, Perfect Little World was worth the time. I wanted more from it, but I did enjoy what I got.

 

 

The Books That Came In The Mail Today

I got three review books in the mail today. They make an interesting group – very different from each other.

Tunneling First, from Ecco/HarperCollins: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, a collection of stories from Kevin Wilson.  From Amazon: "Kevin Wilson's characters inhabit a world that moves seamlessly between the real and the imagined, the mundane and the fantastic. 'Grand Stand-In' is narrated by an employee of a Nuclear Family Supplemental Provider—a company that supplies 'stand-ins' for families with deceased, ill, or just plain mean grandparents. And in 'Blowing Up On the Spot,' a young woman works sorting tiles at a Scrabble factory after her parents have spontaneously combusted. Southern gothic at its best, laced with humor and pathos, these wonderfully inventive stories explore the relationship between loss and death and the many ways we try to cope with both."

I don't usually read short stories but I will give these a try sometime.

Next, from HarperCollins: The Lie, by Chad Kultgen. I hadn't heard of Kultgen before, but he wrote a book called The Average American Male, which apparently got a lot of attention. Here's what Amazon says:

Lie With the publication of The Average American Male — and the release of the shocking viral videos that made it a water-cooler sensation — Chad Kultgen became one of the most talked-about authors of recent years. Now, with The Lie, Kultgen returns with an even more salacious — yet also more searching — novel that reaches deeper into the craven inner workings of some of most depraved minds in America: college students.

His subjects are Brett, the rich hedonist whose appetite for sex is matched only by his contempt for women; his best friend, Kyle, the brooding science geek whose good intentions lead him to one disastrous decision; and Heather, the social-climbing sorority girl who has the power to destroy them both. As this devil's triangle plows through four years of college, Kultgen offers a astonishing take on the wild and amoral universe of college today: a frathouse world where sex is social currency, status means everything — and winner takes all.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Ok, where have I been? I hadn't heard of The Average American Male or its accompany viral videos, but I am intrigued.  (If you are too, try YouTube – I just watched one of them). I flipped through The Lie and it appears to be nonstop sex.

Finally, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Everyone Is Beautiful, by Katherine Center, from the Does Mommy Love It blog.  I wrote about Center's book The Bright Side of Disaster earlier this month, and I am excited to read Everyone is Beautiful. Center left a nice comment on the blog and I am looking forward to trying out her books. From Amazon:

Center When Lanie Coates moves from Houston to Cambridge, Mass., with her musician husband, Peter, she loses her support system and quickly becomes overwhelmed by her three small boys and a self-image that's sagging both literally and figuratively. In this agreeable mom-lit entry, Lanie, a former painter, finds beauty in everyone but herself, and especially adores Peter, even though the two of them seem to be drifting apart. The early chapters nearly sink beneath the weight of routine housekeeping details and scenes describing the children's bodily functions and fascination with their body parts, matters most parents have experienced, but which don't necessarily make for great fiction. However, as Lanie begins to find herself through a newfound passion for photography, the story gains traction, and the tension grows as her photography teacher turns out to be a smitten kitten. Like real-life marriage with children, this book offers enough sparkling moments to compensate for the tedium.

I must enroll in a speed-reading course.