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Winner of the 2008 PEN/Beyond Margins Award
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Europe and South Asia
2007 School Library Journal Best Adult Books for High School Students
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.
Praise for The Perfect Man:
"[The Perfect Man] takes place chiefly in Pisgah, MO., the small town where Rajiv Travers, a half-Indian, half-English boy, comes of age in the 1950s. This 'Our Town'-ish locale is an ideal showcase for Murr's impressive talents . . . Murr, a bracingly straightforward writer whose flourishes are rare and subtle, dexterously advances multiple story lines, overlapping them now and then with rich results .... Well-wrought characters and refreshingly clear prose."
–The New York Times Book Review
“[The Perfect Man] succeeds in re-creating an entire world with a full spectrum of human emotions in a small Missouri town, as Faulkner did in the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi.”
–The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"America is in many ways a nation of outsiders. But Naeem Murr's powerful new novel, The Perfect Man, take this to new extremes .... this deeply moving novel is Raj's coming of age as a literal outcaste in this small and desolate American town....Readers of this beautiful and poignant account of an incredible American childhood will not soon forget it."
–San Francisco Chronicle
"Murr elegantly explores smalltown insularity and secrecy in this Commonwealth Award– winning third novel . . . . 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.
–Publishers Weekly (*** starred review ***)
"Delineating a balanced chiaroscuro between the substantive themes of truth versus secrecy, loyalty versus betrayal, and, of course, good versus evil, Murr's vivid coming-of-age novel is a sumptuous tapestry teeming with hauntingly indelible characters."
T"he Perfect Man is a beautiful story, hauntingly told . . . The book made it to the Man Booker long list last year. Proof enough that thankfully, Naeem Murr’s vivid and heart-wrenching The Perfect Man is infinitely better than the 'ten-cent romances' that Ruth generates."
"Murr's impressive literary abilities are applied to a gargantuan gothic panoramic spotlit with emotional insight."
"The flavor and texture of Murr's latest novel is, quite simply, exquisite. He crafts characters with a complexity and intensity that they become more than "lifelike." They become immortal. These are the Huck Finns and the Tom Joads and the Scout Finches who never die."
–Fredericksburg Freelance Star
"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
"An orphaned half-Indian, half British boy, Rajiv Travers, grows into the titular subject of this sprawling and delicately executed novel by Murr, who crafts a uniquely rich Southern Gothic about Rajiv’s arrival and adjustment into the small river town of Pisgah, Missouri ... There are shades of Robert Penn Warren in his noble populism, balanced by the moral turpitude of Flannery O’Connor, as everyone in Pisgah seems faultlessly flawed. His prose is by turns both wry and good-ol’-boy, muscular during melodrama, yet elegant in the fricasseed anecdotes that create tension among the townsfolk."
–Chicago Time Out
"Murr's verbal chiaroscuro of darkness and light, inky imagery and sun-dappled lyricism creates a vision of lost innocence ... that both haunts and bewitches."
"Inevitably, but with an unexpected range of fall-out, Murr reveals a small-town legacy of brutality, passion and vulnerability that lingers in the mind like an obsession."
–The Glasgow Herald
“Naeem Murr's The Perfect Man is astonishing in its depth and insight. In prose that is both spare and excruciatingly vivid, Murr's warts-and-all portrayal of humanity haunts you long after you've turned the last page.” — Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
“Naeem Murr vividly evokes the passionate world of childhood and adolesence as he tells the compelling story of Rajiv Travers, the ultimate outsider, and his unlikely group of supporters in a small town in Missouri. The Perfect Man is a beautiful and fiercely readable novel.” — Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona
“This nuanced, spellbinding novel is one of the most captivating I’ve ever read. From the lucid, breathtaking prose to the wicked humor, from the author’s deep and rare compassion to the ensemble cast of beautifully rendered, beautifully conflicted characters, the book explores not merely what it means to be young or innocent, not what it means to be an immigrant or American, but what it means to be human. Naeem Murr’s novel is a dark and gorgeous revelation.” --Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi: Stories