Book Review: Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

Perfect Little World - Kevin Wilson (Harper Collins, 2017)
Perfect Little World – Kevin Wilson (Harper Collins, 2017)

Izzy has just graduated from high school when she finds herself pregnant, the result of an ongoing affair with her art teacher. Without support or finances to raise her child, she opts to join an experimental unit run by the young genius Dr. Grind. For ten years, ten families will live together as one family, raising their children together, without the children knowing who their true parents are. Dr Grind stresses that this is for science, not a cult, and the Infinite Family Project (as it’s called) is a regimented organism.

The idea is that these ten children will have an unprecedented amount of support and access to opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. Rather than a traditional family unit, a larger family simply means more love, right?

The concept is so obviously flawed that the reader can’t help wondering how Dr. Grind found ten couples so hopelessly naive as to join. While Izzy’s reasons are fairly well-established, she’s also the only single parent in the group. The others are adults in their twenties and thirties who are in committed relationships. So why on earth are they willing to completely give up control over how they live their lives or raise their child? The idea of my child viewing me as only one of many parents, or of not being able to go to her when she cries in the night because it’s not my turn on the roster is really upsetting and feels fundamentally wrong. I spent a lot of the book feeling profoundly uncomfortable.

Izzy is portrayed as a smart, capable young woman, perhaps unrealistically so. She seems to be good at anything she puts her mind to, be it slow-roasting a pig, joining a communal family, or making art out of wood scraps. Wilson doesn’t touch on the fact that she’s recently been in an abusive relationship or how this affects her decisions and so she feels a little too flawless. Her time in the Infinite Family Project – and the reader follows Izzy for the next ten years – is portrayed as mostly positive. Of course there are issues and the experiment has an unexpected conclusion but Izzy never truly questions her choice, something I didn’t find realistic.

Perfect Little World is an easy read with an interesting concept. It’s hard to tell if Wilson himself is in favour of the Infinite Family Project or not but he does come across as unaware of how unappealing such an idea might to many (most?) readers. More realistic internal conflict for these fictional parents would have made for a deeper and more moving novel. As it is, Perfect Little World works as a quick and easy distraction.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson”

  1. Interesting concept! It reminded me of the kibbutz system in Israel in its early days, where I believe children were communally parented, and biological parents only got to spend a few hours a day with their own children. I think they stopped that after a while because it was too hard for the parents to cope with, and I read a book not long ago by a woman whose mother was a child under the system and, from memory, she still carried a lot of baggage about it – a factual book. It also reminded me of Beloved, where the babies of the slave women were also taken away from their mothers and fed and looked after communally by slaves given that specific task. One where it was done for ‘good’ reasons – to allow women equality in work – and one for ‘bad’ reasons – to force women to work – but probably with pretty similar results for the children…

    1. Yes, it made me think of the kibbutzes as well! At least, the little I know about them from books. In Canada at one point, we had a pretty horrible system of taking Indigenous children from their families and raising them in boarding schools and the affects on the families are still present today. It’s an interesting idea (when done voluntarily) but seems so contrary to the instincts of most parents. Especially keeping the kids from knowing who their actual parents are. Maybe Wilson can write a sequel about how messed up these children are in 20 years!

    1. I just found it so stressful, thinking about being with yet separated from my own child! I think Wilson did a good job of establishing why Izzy would make such a choice but it still seemed like a crazy choice to me.

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