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Review: In a Perfect World

In a Perfect World
By Laura Kasischke
HarperCollins
October 2009
309pp

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

This is the way the world ends…

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.

The Short of It:

This is not a feel-good book. It’s a bit dark, and often times depressing, yet there is beauty between its pages and I found its simplicity oddly comforting.

The Rest of It:

The first third of this book is spent setting up the characters. Jiselle starts off as sort of one-dimensional. She falls in love with Mark Dorn and eventually quits her job to care for his three children. As a pilot, he is rarely home and as an ex-flight attendant, Jiselle is well aware of how such a career works. However, she becomes frustrated by his long absences and spends a lot of her time remembering how it used to be. In the mean time, the Phoenix Flu has hit. Celebrities are dropping like flies and panic has set in. To top it all off, Mark is detained and unable to return home so Jiselle is suddenly a single-parent.

The end of the world as we know it, is a scary thing to ponder. If you’ve ever experienced a natural disaster first-hand, you can sort of appreciate, on a smaller scale, the kind of chaos that is possible. For example, when I was in the big Northridge Quake…it did not occur to me that gasoline would be scarce. I mean, there are pumps everywhere, right?  True, but when there is no electricity those pumps don’t work. Nor do ATMs or credit card machines, so if you’re without cash when the big one hits, then you’re up the creek without a paddle.

This book is sort of like that. Kasischke reminds you that food is scarce, that gasoline is at a premium and that medication is a luxury. As you follow along, you realize just how precious that torn scrap of paper is, or that empty plastic bag. As the characters are slowly stripped of their possessions, what remains is a simplicity…a quietness that is somehow comforting. A simple meal, a game of charades, conversation by candlelight…these are things we typically do not appreciate in the fast-paced world we live in today.

What I found particularly shocking was the author’s use of actual celebrities within the storyline. This put a 2009 “stamp” on it and made it all the more real. Additionally, the pandemic storyline strikes a little too close to home.  In the book, the Phoenix flu loosely resembles the Avian flu but with H1N1 raging all around us, its hard not consider the similarities.

Reading about the end of the world is not pleasant and Kasischke does not paint a pretty picture but the novel is very thought-provoking and there are moments of quiet beauty. I found it to be very visual in the telling. A book club would have a lot to discuss.

Source: This review copy was provided by HarperCollins in conjunction with Book Club Girl.

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