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The Perfect Man

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A hauntingly beautiful coming of age story, set in the backwoods of 1950s Missouri

About the Author

Naeem Murr was born and raised in London and has lived in the USA since 1987. He has published a number of prize winning stories and novellas. His critically acclaimed first novel, The Boy, was published in 1998 and has been translated into six languages.


Adult/High School-This book could accurately be described as gothic fiction, a coming-of-age novel, or a melodrama. Indeed, it succeeds so intelligently and precisely in blending these genres with a cast of multigenerational characters that readers are left transfixed. Twice abandoned by irresponsible, callous relatives, Raj, 12, is abruptly left in the reluctant hands of romance novelist Ruth, the girlfriend of a deceased uncle. Raj, India-born and London-raised, is the ultimate outsider by the standards of his new 1950s Pisgah, MO, home. Although he is a derisive clown and a brilliant mimic, he desires to be accepted into the fabric of the town. Murr writes: "as a child he would spend hours imagining himself as ruggedly handsome, laconic, and dangerously impulsive as the men of Ruth's romances. Brutally powerful, morbidly sensitive, he was the perfect man." Ultimately, however, his inability to achieve such a personal ideal or to homogenize with the community is his salvation from the darkness of Pisgah and the corrupt adult world. The novel leaps seamlessly among perspectives, story lines, and time periods. Murr becomes almost playful in a dizzying carousel of dualisms: youth and maturity, intensity and detachment, sanity and madness, aggression and passivity, male and female, life and death, helplessness and power. These extremes are easily reached, discarded, and compounded through a parade of deeply complex characters. It is then the quieter, individual moments of thoughtfulness, imagination, and compassion that allow some characters a sense of faith and glimpse of humanity. This title will appeal to a wide range of readers.-Shannon Peterson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Murr's third novel (after The Genius of the Sea) follows the movements of Raj, a young Indian boy who is remanded by his globetrotting British father into the care of his aunt in rural Missouri. The small town of Pisgah, peopled largely by recent European immigrants, is much like Chekhov's provincial Russia in that nothing appears to be happening until the dark secrets of the inhabitants are unearthed. Murr's vast cast of characters includes neither sympathetic straw men nor unlikable antagonists; instead, his characters exhibit a humanity that makes it impossible to accept or totally reject them completely. An exquisite stylist, Murr deftly balances narrative and dialog to give us a highly literate and eminently readable novel. In this sense, Murr's achievement is remarkable: he combines two unlike qualities in crafting what we might call a "literary page-turner," one that, despite its length, comes to an end faster than we'd hoped. Replete with Faulknerian foreboding, this novel is a welcome addition to any fiction collection. Strongly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Murr elegantly explores smalltown insularity and secrecy in this Commonwealth Award- winning third novel, following The Boy and The Genius of the Sea. Abandoned by his white father and his absent Indian mother, rejected by his intolerant London relatives, Rajiv Travers, 12 years old in 1954, is sent to stay with his father's other brother, Oliver, who has recently followed the love of his life, romance novelist Ruth, from New York City to tiny Pisgah, Mo. In short order, Oliver commits suicide, and Ruth becomes an uneasy guardian to this curious young boy, who shields himself from pain and prejudice with his quick wit and shrewd impersonations. Peerwise, Raj is quickly taken under the wing of Annie Celli, already a striking beauty, joining a group that also includes Annie's soul mate, the delicate and emotionally fragile Lewis. As the friends grow into young men and women, Annie finds herself torn between her devotion to the increasingly unstable Lewis (who witnessed his younger brother's murder) and her undeniable feelings for Raj. Murr takes a Faulknerian approach to his portrait of Pisgah, peopling it with minor characters whose eccentricities provide local color and shrouded gothic elements--one of which reverberates menacingly. Murr poignantly dramatizes love's capacity to effect change. (May) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Doing for 1950s small-town America what The Last Picture Show did in film, Naeem Murr... has created a fully-fledged, self-contained world, with a vast array of characters, each quixotic and authentically flawed" -- Lionel Shriver Financial Times "At one level, The Perfect Man is a very competent coming-of-age novel, exploring friendship, love, heartbreak and the chilling dawn of adult wisdom in Rajiv and his group of friends. But it is also a book about arrival and departures, about developing roots in a place, particularly as an outsider" Times Literary Supplement "Where to begin? This novel has so many layers, all feeding on the theme of human imperfection and the way that we treat supposed outsiders" The Times "Carefully paced with memorable incidents and brilliant flashes of poetic description, the nevertheless muted tone of the book's slow burn makes the unremitting cataclysm, when it arrives, all the more shocking" Glasgow Herald "Murr's Booker longlisted novel is an eloquently constructed fiction... his verbal chiaroscuro of darkness and light, inky imagery and sun-dappled lyricism, creates a vision of lost innocence" Sunday Times

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