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The Perfect Man: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 17, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Murr elegantly explores smalltown insularity and secrecy in this Commonwealth Award– winning third novel, following The Boy and The Genius of the Sea. Abandoned by his white father and his absent Indian mother, rejected by his intolerant London relatives, Rajiv Travers, 12 years old in 1954, is sent to stay with his father's other brother, Oliver, who has recently followed the love of his life, romance novelist Ruth, from New York City to tiny Pisgah, Mo. In short order, Oliver commits suicide, and Ruth becomes an uneasy guardian to this curious young boy, who shields himself from pain and prejudice with his quick wit and shrewd impersonations. Peerwise, Raj is quickly taken under the wing of Annie Celli, already a striking beauty, joining a group that also includes Annie's soul mate, the delicate and emotionally fragile Lewis. As the friends grow into young men and women, Annie finds herself torn between her devotion to the increasingly unstable Lewis (who witnessed his younger brother's murder) and her undeniable feelings for Raj. Murr takes a Faulknerian approach to his portrait of Pisgah, peopling it with minor characters whose eccentricities provide local color and shrouded gothic elements—one of which reverberates menacingly. Murr poignantly dramatizes love's capacity to effect change. (May)
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From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This book could accurately be described as gothic fiction, a coming-of-age novel, or a melodrama. Indeed, it succeeds so intelligently and precisely in blending these genres with a cast of multigenerational characters that readers are left transfixed. Twice abandoned by irresponsible, callous relatives, Raj, 12, is abruptly left in the reluctant hands of romance novelist Ruth, the girlfriend of a deceased uncle. Raj, India-born and London-raised, is the ultimate outsider by the standards of his new 1950s Pisgah, MO, home. Although he is a derisive clown and a brilliant mimic, he desires to be accepted into the fabric of the town. Murr writes: as a child he would spend hours imagining himself as ruggedly handsome, laconic, and dangerously impulsive as the men of Ruth's romances. Brutally powerful, morbidly sensitive, he was the perfect man. Ultimately, however, his inability to achieve such a personal ideal or to homogenize with the community is his salvation from the darkness of Pisgah and the corrupt adult world. The novel leaps seamlessly among perspectives, story lines, and time periods. Murr becomes almost playful in a dizzying carousel of dualisms: youth and maturity, intensity and detachment, sanity and madness, aggression and passivity, male and female, life and death, helplessness and power. These extremes are easily reached, discarded, and compounded through a parade of deeply complex characters. It is then the quieter, individual moments of thoughtfulness, imagination, and compassion that allow some characters a sense of faith and glimpse of humanity. This title will appeal to a wide range of readers.–Shannon Peterson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 451 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; First Edition edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812977017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812977011
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an AMAZING book! If schoolchildren all read "Other Voices, Other Rooms" we might see more work of this quality. As it is, this book is a one off, a unique vision, a real original. How do you fit into a strange world that keeps changing as fast as you can? How can you love despite abandonment and betrayal? How can you find a way into other people's hearts when your own is still a mystery to you? Naeem Murr adresses these big questions among others in this passionate, literate and deeply satisfying novel. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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Format: Paperback
(4.5 stars) Rajiv Travers, the son of Gerard Travers and an Indian woman whom Gerard claims to have bought for twenty pounds, finds himself "orphaned" and uprooted at the age of five, when he is sent from India to London to live with his father, a man he does not know. By the age of twelve he has been abandoned several more times, both physically and emotionally, and has been sent to Pisgah, Missouri, to live with Ruth Winters, the romance-writing mistress of one of his uncles. A "black" child living in a white world, Rajiv becomes close friends with Annie and Lew, who often include Alvin and Nora in their activities. Each child, suffering from some personal trauma, is trying to make sense of the past and the often tumultuous and threatening present.

Pisgah, Missouri, provides a Southern Gothic setting in which author Naeem Murr explores the essence of selfhood. The sense of isolation, the difficulties (or, sometimes, impossibilities) of communication, the role of sex, and issues of power and control, perennial problems for teenagers, are also problems for the adults in Pisgah as well. Everyone has secrets, some of them secrets which are guaranteed to be kept because they include evil activities in which an entire group has participated.

Murr, who has previously focused on dark psychological aberrations in his novel The Boy, creates a cauldron of activity here in which the adolescents try to survive the perils they face on a daily basis. The characters, while darker and, in many cases, more damaged than what we usually call "normal," come to life as their individual backgrounds and the backgrounds of their families are revealed.
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Format: Paperback
I just read "The Perfect Man" on the recommendation of a friend from the UK (it came out there last year). I sat on the couch for hours and hours, unable to put it down. You're introduced to this forlorn, unwanted child who is dragged from India to Britain to the small-town U.S., and as he gets to know the complexities of this little Missouri backwater (its crimes and sexual secrets and interrelationships and rumors and histories), you get to know them, too. You end up longing for the happiness of some characters and the downfall of others, and wanting desperately to know WHAT HAPPENED to a little boy who died years before. There are many twining stories over the course of many years, but you never get lost or bored. The people all have such vividness, with so much at stake--especially the survival of vulnerable children through pain, neglect, confusion and love. And there's such a rich sense of the cycle of life. I was tearful a number times while reading. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
I knew nothing of the book nor had I ever heard of the author. I picked up and read this book based solely on the title. Being fairly frequently reminded that I am not a perfect man, and that I have a long way to go to get there, I was curious to find what this unknown author might have to say about "the perfect man." Alas, I didn't find the answer to perfection, but I did find a wonderful story.

As I jumped into this one, the story came alive with great characters, beginning in post-war London and moving quickly to, of all places, 1950s very small-town America, Pisgah, Missouri, which lies essentially near the center of the state, deep in America's heartland, and along the banks of the Missouri River; certainly neither a place nor a time that would willingly accept a dark-skinned foreigner with a name like "Rajiv". It made for a great story, for sure worthy of a strong four-star rating. However, at the very end of the book, I found the final chapter to be so strong, so engaging and so optimistic that this strong four-star story was pushed over the brink to a five-star gem of a story.

I think the story of Raj, the Indian-born boy who ends up in Missouri by way of London, is a story of many, many levels - levels that deserve to be given an in-depth analysis by people much more capable of such analysis than I. However, I do opine that Murr is outstanding at creating the atmosphere of this small town, displaying to the reader the town's eccentricities and prejudices, the dark secrets of its families and social cliques, the love that bound its young characters, and the love-turned-to-hate, spite and despair that embroiled many of the adults and decayed marital, familial and community relationships.
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