I decided a few years ago that I would no longer review books here, mostly because I didn’t want to hurt feelings or neglect anyone. But sometimes rules need to be broken. And this is one of those times.
I met Barbara Claypole White (online, but we’re going to fix that soon at the WFWA Writers Retreat) when both of us were about to see our debut babies sail forth into readers’ hands. Her brilliant work, The Unfinished Garden, shared a release party with Becalmed.
Barbara’s niche in the world of literature has evolved because of her own struggle to raise a son with OCD. We’ve seen the movie versions of this illness and tried to find the humanity in it, the place where we might be comfortable in its company. But Barbara gave us James to challenge all of our preconceptions–and we loved him. No, we fell in love with him.
Her sophomore novel dealt with other issues and did it well, but it’s her third book, The Perfect Son, that firmly establishes Barbara as an author who is going places.
I consider this nothing short of brilliant. BCW began this journey into the world of flawed characters in The Unfinished Garden, and I fell in love with James as he battled OCD. In The Perfect Son, she explores flawed people of differing ages dealing with other flawed people—and doing it badly—until a crisis forces them to grow or to fold. The title works on so many levels.
Some stories push you to accept characters in spite of their issues. The Perfect Son made me long to meet Felix, Harry, Max, Katherine, and Eudora—and, of course, Ella—because of their issues and their triumph of spirit. Managing that, my friends, takes a gifted author.