REVIEW: THE PERFECT FAMILY by Kathryn Shay

Mike and Maggie Davidson, parents of two sons in high school, lead-if not the perfect life-certainly one close to it.  Brian, a senior, plays on the school’s baseball team and hopes for a scholarship. Jamie, a junior, is a member of the drama club.

Of course what seems to be perfect from the outside, is -like most families-not so perfect on the inside.  Even before Jamie’s surprising announcement, Maggie and Mike were experiencing a tug-of-war rooted not so much in whether or not they should worship, but about how they worship. Mike continues to be involved in the Catholic Church, even serving on the church’s Contemporary Issues Committee. He wants his family to attend worship with him, but Maggie is pulling away from the Catholic Church. Mike, it seems, see her distancing herself from the church as her distancing herself from him as well.

With this strain as the backdrop, Jaime comes out to his mother.  As a mother, I appreciated Shay’s handling of this announcement. Maggie’s doing the laundry when Jaime tells her that the date he’ll be going on is not with a girl, but with Luke.  The startling juxtaposed with the mundane was a nice touch.

Shay ‘s characters aren’t flat talking heads for an agenda, aren’t stick figures designed to play themselves out as victims, which-honestly-would have made the writing easier! She creates a real family whose life doesn’t stop while they figure out what to do when Jaime announces that he is gay.  Mike and Maggie still struggle in their relationship with one another. Brian, as would be expected, loves his brother but is mad at Jaime for making their lives difficult. Not to mention, as the high school jock, the tormenting he’ll be subjected to by his friends.  And Mike, even while he expresses his disapproval, disappointment, and despair, is portrayed as a man and father very much in conflict. He loves his son; he loves his church. How can he and is it even possible for one to be reconciled to the other?

Since the story was set in New York, I more readily bought into Jamie and Luke holding hands in the school hallway and attending prom as a couple.  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not sure that gay students in my school would be so courageous.

Ultimately, Shay crafts a story of a family on the brink of brokenness who find their way back through hope.  She rises about stereotypes and easy solutions, and shows us that real love means rising above our own expectations of others and  loving them right where they are.

Definitely a book I’d recommend.

You can buy The Perfect Family HERE

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160282181X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602821811
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