Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
Best for: People interested in an exploration of what family means, told through an unconventional concept.
In a nutshell: Researcher is interested in creating broader supports for families, and so enlists nine couples and one single mother to enroll in the Infinite Family project.
Line that sticks with me: “David kissed her quickly, which struck Izzy as something he’d seen work out in a movie. She, on the other hand, hated the presumption that she would change her mind if she only made out with him.”
Why I chose it: It chose me! Sort of. This was an advance reader’s edition that I picked up during Indie Bookstore day in Seattle earlier this year. It was wrapped, so I didn’t know what I was getting until I opened it.
Review: This is, for the most part, an interesting tale. It is told mostly in the third person from Izzy’s point of view, although it is occasionally told from Dr. Grind’s perspective. Izzy is just about to graduate high school when she learns she is pregnant by her art teacher. He claims to want to be with her, but only if there is no more baby; she opts for the baby instead. Her mother died when she was 13; her father provides her with food and shelter but little else.
Dr. Grind, meanwhile, is a researcher who was raised by the Constant Friction Method, which his parents created and sounds a bit like torture – their thinking being that if he’s often uncomfortable (maybe his bed will be there tonight, maybe it won’t) and faced with challenges and loss (maybe his dog will be here in the morning, maybe he’ll never see it again), then he’ll develop the ability to handle anything that comes his way. And it seems to have worked, except now he’s more interested in creating families that can be expanded and support each other even if they aren’t related.
Hence the Infinite Family Project. Ten families (all but Izzy’s including one man and one woman) who are due to give birth in a certain time frame are selected to live together in a commune. It isn’t a cult; the parents are free and in fact encouraged to get jobs and pursue further education outside the community, but for the first few years of their children’s’ lives, the kids all sleep communally, and the parents all help raise their little ones. Each family has its own apartment, but the children don’t move in until they are about five. The project is meant to run for 10 years.
This is not nearly as soap opera-y as it could have been. Author Wilson does a good job of exploring how this impact Izzy as both the youngest parent and the only one without a partner. But I always felt distant from her. Perhaps it’s the third person writing, although I’ve connected with characters in similar writing styles. Perhaps it’s because the character of Izzy herself is meant to be a bit removed. I cared about her, but didn’t feel totally invested in her or the other parents. I did feel marginally invested in Dr. Grind.
I can’t say that you should run out and buy it, but if the plot sounds interesting to you, I think you’ll probably enjoy how it plays out.