Firstly, I’ll qualify this review with a confession that I didn’t quite go into this reading experience feeling impartial. I have read a couple of Jodi Picoult’s other novels (she’s a prolific best seller with millions drooling over her writing capability; she’s pretty difficult to avoid) and I didn’t think they were that great. So I wasn’t overly open minded about this latest reading experience, and she certainly didn’t manage to change my mind with Perfect Match. Although, to be fair, apparently lots of people hated this one, even her fans. So what chance did I have?
Nina and Caleb Frost live in Maine with their five year old son Nathaniel. Nina is a prosecutor in the court system, and knows that, often, justice isn’t served, but she keeps her distance emotionally. But when Nina and Caleb find out that Nathaniel has been sexually abused, Nina doesn’t want to leave this one to the mercy of the court system. She knows how unreliable child witnesses can be, and how often their abusers walk free. So when she finds out that the DNA results match a priest at their church, although the priest strenuously denies the charges, she takes matters into her own hands. At the priest’s court case, Nina shoots the priest dead in front of everyone, knowing that the system will most likely allow her to walk free under the defense of temporary insanity. However, things aren’t always that simple. Is it possible there was a mistake, that the priest wasn’t the guilty party? How will Nina cope, having wreaked “justice” on an innocent man? And will it tear their family apart?
The style was classic Jodi Picoult; the writing flashes from various third person limited perspectives to first person from the point of view of Nina, and this gives the impression that the reader is getting the whole story while cunningly managing to leave bits out so that there can be some twists at the end. The storyline was fairly standard; Jodi Picoult is also famed for her tackling of the moral quagmire. Perfect Match is no exception, dealing with guilt and justice and law and whatnot. The thing with Picoult is that if it wasn’t so sensationalist and populist they could be interesting stories, or interesting moral dilemmas to investigate. Although I suppose she deserves some respect for getting the populace thinking about such things. My main gripe with Perfect Match is the characterisation. Firstly, Nathaniel. Some of the story is written in the third person limited watching Nathaniel, and frankly I find it very difficult to hear his voice as authentic. If a character is writing in the first person about when they were five “when I was five I felt...” then faulty five year old authenticity can be excused because the character itself is placing certain false emphasis on their rationalising abilities at that age. However, it is inexcusable in a present tense third person examination of a five year old. Maybe Picoult has a particularly aware and savvy five year old she’s basing the little guy off, but I’ve studied education AND hung out with five year olds, and I doubt that many of them would go through thought processes anywhere NEAR as advanced as those Nathaniel went through. And it seems that authenticity has been sacrificed to add suspense, but it just seems like inexpert writing instead.
The character of Nina, my second gripe, is irritatingly self righteous, one dimensional, and annoying. And this is not how the main character, who we are supposed to sympathise with at times, should be. Other, more perceptive authors manage to incorporate a character’s flaws in with the rest of the character to add extra dimensions and humanity; let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. But even writing some of the story from Nina’s point of view didn’t help at all. She was still an irritating stereotype who did stupid and unjustifiable things and irritated everybody. And this certainly did no favours for exploring the ethics and issues the book was raising; if you can’t sympathise with the main character where’s the dilemma? I think that the main problem with Nina has to do with skewed perceptions of women and feminism; and going a little off track I will say that I have had that problem with some of Picoult’s other books. She often has a completely unreasonable female character who is starkly one dimensional and uncompromising and unable to see anyone else’s viewpoint, in contrast to all the sensitive males and children. Maybe Picoult has some unresolved personal issues, maybe she has a skewed version of femininity or being a woman, or maybe she’s doing it on purpose to turn some male/female dynamics on their head. Whatever it is, I don’t like it.
The sort of person who attends book clubs. I’m going to assume that, as all of Jodi Picoult’s books seem to be printed with a list of examinary questions all ready to go in the back for when it hits the book clubs. Also, while she’s annoying, she’s also easy to read and doesn’t demand full brainpower. If you are doing night travel on a plane, for example, this would be okay. Preferably when you don’t want to think too much, so you don’t have to marvel at the inaccuracies.
Go nuts with the other Jodi Picoults. She has many. And this one got quite negative reviews even from her fans, so if you like this you’ll more than likely like her others.
|Genre(s):||Fiction, Airport novel|