A few months ago, a challenge was put forth to a writing group in which I participate. The challenge was to read more books in the same genre in which we write. I am a Women’s Fiction writer, so I started compiling a list to read. (You can find a growing list here on my Goodreads’ profile.) I’m almost 10 books into the list since the challenge, and I am both excited by what’s available and also humbled enough about my own work to make sure it’s as good as it possibly can be, because the competition is fierce.
The first book I read in this genre was THE PERFECT SON by Barbara Claypole White. This is a story about a woman, Ella Fitzwilliam, who is the hub of her family. The other members are orbiting planets and she is the sun. In this story, the sun loses its power to hold her planets in place and they have to reorient or be cast into the splintered, dark abyss of a broken family’s space. The disorientation of this known and predictable system is complicated by the fact that the son in the story, Harry, has Tourette Syndrome, which is inherently erratic and uncontainable. It disrupts the father’s, Felix Fitzwilliam, desire for order and perfection. The story follows this unlikely reorientation for worse and for better.
Barbara Claypole White has a gift for communicating the humanity of her characters, and they felt so real to me that at one point I shouted out loud at Felix, and throughout the story, I felt a need to protect Harry and Ella. I was squarely stuck in this story and that is an unusual place for me as a reader. Normally I know I’m a bystander. So, hats off to you, Barbara.
THE PERFECT SON is a great example of how a person can be in a state of constant redemption, never fully who we’re meant to be, and yet, a state so much better from where we began. That feels sincere to the human condition, to me. I hope I can emulate that in my own work.
Have you read THE PERFECT SON? What books have you read that stayed true to the human experience? Have you read titles that show what it’s like to live with disorders or mental illness that rang true to you?
Thanks for reading!