Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In a Perfect World

In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke
HarperCollins, 2009
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780061766114
recommended, maybe highly

It was a fairy tale come true when Mark Dorn—handsome pilot, widower, tragic father of three—chose Jiselle to be his wife. The other flight attendants were jealous: She could quit now, leaving behind the million daily irritations of the job. (Since the outbreak of the Phoenix flu, passengers had become even more difficult and nervous, and a life of constant travel had grown harder.) She could move into Mark Dorn's precious log cabin and help him raise his three beautiful children.
But fairy tales aren't like marriage. Or motherhood. With Mark almost always gone, Jiselle finds herself alone, and lonely. She suspects that Mark's daughters hate her. And the Phoenix flu, which Jiselle had thought of as a passing hysteria (when she had thought of it at all), well . . . it turns out that the Phoenix flu will change everything for Jiselle, for her new family, and for the life she thought she had chosen.
From critically acclaimed author Laura Kasischke comes a novel of married life, motherhood, and the choices we must make when we have no choices left.
My Thoughts:

Although I'll admit I was enjoying In a Perfect World, I was also having issues with it.
In a Perfect World is lite dystopian fiction meets chic lit. The Phoenix flu was what highly interested me and I wanted gritty details about this new stepmother dealing with a pandemic. There's no grit here. A modern pandemic would spread much quicker and across the world much faster than Kasischke's Phoenix flu. In the P.S. section in my copy Kasischke said she was looking at the Black Death of 1347-1349 and the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666. That explains some of the little elements she brought into the story because they were from historical accounts (animals acting oddly, unusual weather, cults, etc.). Looking at a more recent flu pandemic, like the one in 1918, might have served Kasischke better. Even then she'd need to speed up the timeline for the spread of a truly virulent flu today. Additionally, given recent hysteria over H1N1, it is inconceivable that information regarding the Phoenix flu wouldn't be all over the news media.

But, while the pandemic storyline interested me the most, it ended up not being the main focus of the story. Jiselle's new marriage to Mark Dorn, her relationship with her three stepchildren, and, as the synopsis said, "the choices we must make when we have no choices left" are the main foci. Jiselle's naiveté in so many areas, and her, well, spineless, clueless behavior was a bit annoying. The fact that Kasischke is a talented writer and has some beautifully written descriptions helped redeem In a Perfect World to some extent, but not completely. After a strong start and some very promising directions that could have been taken, the story lost focus at the end. Kasischke could have done so much more with it.
Recommended, borderline highly - it was a good vacation book.


If you are reading this you are going to DIE!
Jiselle put the diary back on the couch where she found it and went outside with the watering can. opening

No one had said the word epidemic yet, or the word pandemic. No one was calling it a plague.
The first outbreak had swept through a nursing home in Phoenix, Arizona, over a year ago, leaving the elderly miraculously untouched but killing seven nurses and aides. pg. 5

Full of curious weather, meteor showers, and the discovery in rain forests and oceans of species thought to be extinct, it was the kind of year you might associate with an apocalypse if you were prone to making those kinds of associations, which more and more people seemed to be. pg. 6

The afternoon Jiselle announced her engagement to Captain Dorn, she saw them for the first time:
The white balloons. pg. 17

Jiselle had heard of the groups of volunteers and activists who gathered every Sunday in cities all over the United States to set them loose - a white balloon for every victim of the Phoenix flu - but as yet she'd seen them only on television. pg. 17

"...There will be no one from the States staying at my inn. You're all going to catch this and kill the rest of us. It's just a matter of time." pg. 31

Fearing something even worse this time, and in public, Jiselle had almost cancelled the birthday dinner, but she knew what her mother would think about that - about her new marriage, about her stepchildren, about her whole life, and all of her decisions - if she did. She would say, "How sad for you, alone on your birthday. Mark simply couldn't take one day off to spend with you?" pg. 40

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