Book of the Week: Perfect Little World – Kevin Wilson

Let me preface this review by saying readers love Kevin Wilson. Over the last five years a season has rarely gone by that a bookseller hasn’t asked when the author of the The Family Fang has a new book coming. That novel was the story of a brother and sister who grew up as participants in their parents’ performance art. Both hilarious and wise, Entertainment Weekly compared that book to George Saunders and Wes Anderson. If you haven’t yet read it, treat yourself to The Family Fang after you read this new one.

Both books successfully and movingly explore the idea of family. Perfect Little World has, in some ways, an even more outlandish set up than Wilson’s last book. The setting is a utopian experiment in collective child-rearing involving 19 parents and 10 children. Tara Bagnola at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor explains the resulting combination of charm and gravitas that Wilson is able to conjure:

Until finishing this book I hadn’t realized how odd it felt to read a story with a happy ending and actually feel gratified. However, Wilson does more than tell a wonderful story with a happy ending. He captures, with an expert kind of grace, the paradoxical, heart-breaking, life-saving power of family — the ones we are born into and the ones we create for ourselves.”

With this book I think I can now say Wilson’s got a signature style: sweet, funny, wise–emotionally generous and completely disarming.

Perfect Little World arrives with an Indie Next Pick, two starred advance reviews and major review coverage scheduled in the NYTBR, People, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly and Vanity Fair.

“Persistently compassionate….Wilson’s best moments are funny and earnest…. [His] crisp language and smart plotting make Perfect Little World immensely likable and absolutely enjoyable.”

“[A] sweet and thoroughly satisfying second novel. When bright high school senior Izzy Poole, whose mother has died and whose alcoholic father ignores her, discovers that she is pregnant…[she joins] nine other couples, all pregnant at the same time, who will raise their kids in common in the Infinite Family Project for 10 years, to see if that situation aids the children’s emotional and intellectual development. The children thrive; the adults, not so much. Wilson keeps his eye on the grown-ups…as rifts begin to form in the carefully planned and maintained structure. Wilson grounds his premise in credible human motivations and behavior, resulting in a memorable cast of characters. He uses his intriguing premise to explore the meaning of family and the limits of rational decision making.”
Publishers Weekly

Stellar….Compelling. …Realer and wiser and sadder and eventually reassuring about human nature than dozens of other novels.”
   — Booklist (starred review)

“Bittersweet….Wilson delves into the drama and tensions inherent in this strange aquarium….A moving and sincere reflection on what it truly means to be a family.”
   — Kirkus (starred review)

“There’s nothing like watching a cast of characters grow up in front of your eyes, each passing year making each person both more and less knowable, until you are as attuned to their individual changes as to the waxing and waning of your own understanding, delight, and frustration with them. With Kevin Wilson’s latest, Perfect Little World, such character growth is nearly steroidal as we are presented with not only a cast of ten babies, but also ten pairs of parents, all living together in pursuit of a revolutionary child psychology experiment created by Dr. Preston Grind. Under such extreme circumstances, impossible to imagine yet, under Wilson’s meticulous hand, compellingly and magically easy to believe, we follow Isabelle Poole, the only single mother involved in the Infinite Family project, as she tries to stitch together a family out of total strangers. Wilson, as author, is the true parent of this brood of squalling characters, and he treats them each like a good parent might, with watchful love, never blind to their flaws but always, eventually, forgiving of them. I wished that I could live in the imperfect, larger-than-life world that is Wilson’s novel forever. I’ll settle for knowing that I can visit anytime I like.”
Lillian Li, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

“Wow, I loved this book! Wilson’s first novel, The Family Fang, showcased his prodigious talent for striking a balance between big, outrageous ideas, quirky humor, and heartfelt human drama. The same strengths have been honed even further for this amazing novel, in which a brilliant-but-academically-disinterested pregnant teen joins a project organized by an idealistic child psychologist and funded by an elderly billionaire, in which a group of ten children are raised together from birth without knowing who their parents are. Wilson’s greatest strength is his portrayal of the complexity of his characters’ feelings, particularly when faced with the unexpected. Warm, funny, satisfying, and thought-provoking, Perfect Little World is exactly what it says on the cover–perfect.”
Carol Schneck Varner. Schuler Books and Music, Okemos, MI

Perfect Little World (9780062450326) by Kevin Wilson. $26.99 hardcover. 1/24/17 on sale.


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