This review is written in exchange for a ARC through The Story Plant.
I have to admit, you tell me that a story has a rock star–has-been or not–and you’re going to catch my interest. I think there’s an innate love of the rocker image born into people like me, and it’s impossible to resist. So show me a story of a rock star past his prime, trying to make his way through the world and reforge what he’s lost in time and distraction, and I was intrigued from the start.
Grant Kelly is the has-been rock star, and at the start of the book he is moving out into the Catskills with his wife Beth and son Evan. Their friends and landlords, Trip and Christa, have agreed to let them leave New York City (post 9/11) and stay out there with them. In many ways from there, this is very much a slice-of-life style book. We see the troubles Trip and Christa face in raising their adopted daughter Katie (who is notoriously foul-tempered and only calmed down by one of my favorite brands of popcorn, amusingly enough to me), we see Grant and Beth struggle with their relationship and the changes it’s going through in addition to the change in location, and Grant’s old friend Paul and Paul’s wife Melora show up and remind all of them of what they aren’t.
This is an incredibly well-written book. Even though it’s Burke’s first novel, he’s not new to the writing field and it shows. The stories are real and evocative, the characters are believable (I particularly like any of the scenes with Katie; I’ve seen children like that and good gracious) and the ending is a wrench into the works like very few books I’ve ever read.
The trouble is that I don’t think I’m the intended target.
Much of the book, since it’s in Grant’s head, is written from the perspective from a middle-aged married man. As a single late-twenties individual, I have some trouble truly connecting with him–and all of the others are the same category. This is a story that truly requires you to latch into these characters in order to be properly moved by it–particularly most if not all of the final conflict–and I don’t think I ever fully got there. To be fair, I don’t blame the book for this; it’s simply an audience issue, and that lies with me.
Overall, I would absolutely recommend this book, but I recommend it with the reservation of being sure of your connection to the book, which is the only reason I bumped down the rating as I did. For a slice-of-life book of the characters involved, I was very much impressed. They are characters who will stay with me for a while, and rightfully so.
Rating: *** (Worth a Look)
PERFECTLY BROKEN will be published March 8th, 2016.