Two years ago, Neil Banks walked into a bathroom in the Pacific Fertility Center to provide his former college girlfriend, Jenny Callahan, with the biological material needed to conceive a child. Becoming a father was not part of the deal: adrift in his postmodern Los Angeles lifestyle, he signed away all paternity rights. But on the day of the baby’s christening, Neil turns up at the church. His unexpected and unauthorized return to Jenny’s privileged East Coast world sends a shockwave through the families of Jenny and her two college roommates and sets off this deeply funny and keenly observed novel about fertility, love, and American excess.
Perfect Life is a vivid, fascinating snapshot of the way some of us live now. Jessica Shattuck’s engrossing, deceptively ambitious novel explores a wide range of subjects — from the logistics of adultery and the complexities of friendship to the nuts and bolts of video game design and pharmaceutical marketing — with a shrewd and sympathetic eye.
“Shattuck keeps Perfect Life lilting with sharp characterizations, a lively narrative and wry observations.”
“Jessica Shattuck offers a smart, sad rumination on the pursuit of happiness — and how the elusive ideal has evolved into a sort of stubbornly held birthright for privileged twenty- and thirtysomethings … With her elegant prose, Shattuck manages to make her characters’ stories feel both engrossing and utterly real.”
“We plan our lives with such detail and hope for perfection, but as Shattuck’s exceptional novel shows, life doesn’t usually allow things to work out that way…Each of the four fully delineated characters is unique, and their situations clearly reflect their personalities as Shattuck describes their feelings with great accuracy, reveling in the fact that her characters are well educated and reflective people who demonstrate admirable self-awareness. In all, this is an excellent, resonant novel.”
“In this smart and engaging follow-up to her well received debut, The Hazards of Good Breeding, Shattuck focuses on three privileged Gen-X college roommates who are now grown-up, coupled up and raising kids in pre-recession Boston…Stylish story-telling and sharp social commentary — on issues ranging from adultery to genetic engineering — make Perfect Life both topical and eminently readable.”
“Perfectly timed … Perfect Life is a social commentary on rampant capitalism, unbridled science, love and fidelity.”
“… sharp characterizations, a lively narrative line and wry observations … [Shattuck] dares us to flex our social consciences with questions that include “who ‘deserves’ to be happy?” even as she reminds us that not just breeding but life itself can be hazardous — but worth the risks.”
“… Minute by minute, and from within, author Jessica Shattuck vividly inhabits the varying viewpoints of her characters and their dilemmas, while simultaneously delivering a subtle sting of commentary and criticism … Illuminated by Shattuck’s sophisticated voice, the characters feel excitingly real.”
“Shattuck’s seamless second (after The Hazards of Good Breeding) explores how one woman’s decision to shut the biological father of her child out of her life affects a group of old college pals…Shattuck does a great job with her characters, and the bizarre situations they find themselves in — Neil particularly — come across as oddly believable. Light humor and breezy prose seal the deal.”
“In graceful, lambent prose, Jessica Shattuck explores modern life, with all its moral ambiguity and complicated compromises, never judging, always illuminating. A beautiful book.”
“Jessica Shattuck writes warmly and wryly of family, friendship, nature versus nurture, and the quest for the perfect life. This novel is smart, funny, and life-affirming in all its permutations.”