In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

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In a Perfect World

Paperback, 326 pages

Published: October 6, 2009 by Harper Perennial (1st published September 23, 2009)

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Jiselle, a thirty-something flight attendant with an open heart and naive nature, falls for a pilot. Mark seems perfect — he’s handsome, charming, and sexy. Jiselle quickly agrees to marry him, quit her job, and raise his three motherless children. Do you sense trouble coming?

The story of Jiselle’s marriage is one layer of this novel. In the background of her life, the “Phoenix flu” is killing indiscriminately, and no one understands why or how to prevent or treat it. Furthermore, the United States is blamed for this growing worldwide epidemic. We see society change gradually around Jiselle, beginning with occasional electrical blackouts and shortages and ending with a world that is almost unrecognizable.

This author won me over with The Life Before Her Eyes, and when I finally started In a Perfect World, I couldn’t put it down. I love Kasischke’s lyrical, poetic writing. Her vivid imagery and attention to detail make her stories seem realistic and concrete, yet you’re being drawn into a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.

I love the fact that, unlike other dystopian fiction, this novel takes place in a culture that is clearly our own. The apocalyptic events don’t come in one dramatic moment. It’s a slow progression, painted vividly with realistic details. This made it eerily easy to imagine these events actually unfolding in our world.

In a Perfect World creates an apocalyptic universe interwoven with a drama about falling in love, marriage, and becoming a stepmother. It reflects the zeitgeist of post 9/11 America. The author spent a great deal of time researching how cultures respond to plagues, and it’s full of allusions to history, including the bubonic plague, and folklore. Most of all, it’s a story about who you become when life demands every bit of strength and fortitude you have — and more — and about the glorious and agonizing journey of becoming a mother.

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