Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Europe and South Asia.
Winner of the 2008 PEN Beyond Margins Award.
Identity, friendship, and a long-hidden crime lie at the heart of Naeem Murr’s captivating novel about five friends growing up in a small 1950s Missouri river town. A contender for the Man Booker Prize, this exhilarating story beautifully evokes the extreme joys, as well as the dark and shameful desires, of childhood.
Young Rajiv Travers hasn’t had much luck fitting in anywhere. Born to an Indian mother who was sold to his English father for £20, Raj is abandoned by his relatives into the reluctant care of Ruth, an American romance writer living in Pisgah, Missouri. While his skin color unsettles most of the townsfolk, who are used to seeing things in black and white, the quick-witted Raj soon finds his place among a group of children his own age.
While the friends remain loyal to one another through the years, it becomes clear that their paths will veer in markedly different directions. But breaking free of the demands of their families and their community, as well as one another, comes at a devastating price: As the chilling secrets of Pisgah’s residents surface, the madness that erupts will cost Raj his closest friend even as it offers him the life he always dreamed of.
Taking us into the intimate life of small-town America, The Perfect Man explores both the power of the secrets that shape us and the capacity of love in all its guises to heal even the most damaged of souls.
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.