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Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
Literary fiction

Perfect Little World

by Kevin Wilson

Quick take

Isn’t it better to try for an idealized version of the world, than not to have tried at all?

Why I love it

At a time when dystopian novels are all the rage, what a delight to read a novel about striving for perfection, no matter how short the effort may fall. If I could choose one author to write about a flawed yet earnest attempt at utopia, Kevin Wilson would be at the top of my list. Even as he relishes the absurd details in his characters’ lives, he never mocks them, never treats them with anything less than compassion. _Perfect Little World_ is the story of an ambitious sociological experiment called 'œThe Infinite Family Project.' Dr. Preston Grind, a young and idealistic child psychologist, heads up the study with funding from an elderly big box store magnate, taking the 'œIt takes a village' model of co-parenting to a new level. Dr. Grind picks ten newborns, along with their parents, and stashes them all in a beautiful complex deep in the Tennessee woods to find out what happens when the children grow up parented collectively by all participants. No child will learn who his or her birth parents are until the sixth year of the study. All parents and children will be well provided for, from education and healthcare, to job training for the parents. Told from the point of view of the only single parent to take place in the experiment, a young mother named Isabelle Poole, _Perfect Little World_ follows the members of this makeshift family as the study evolves over years. We see the development of both the children and the parents, and also the jealousies and broken hearts, petty fights and larger conflicts that emerge as the years pass. It’s a novel that’s so fun to read that you might forget how fundamentally philosophical it is: What is a family? Do more parent mean more love? How long can such a community maintain its harmony? And ultimately, which are the ties that truly bind? There are darker questions that arise as well: How does a science experiment differ from a cult? How fallible is human nature? And most importantly, will people separated from regular society want to make out with each other all the time? The novel aims to answer these questions, but it never devolves into satire because the author is too generous for that. Ultimately, the novel’s most enduring question might be: isn’t it better try for an idealized version of the world, than not to have tried at all?
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    February 2017