Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sci-Fi: In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Date: 2009
Format: paperback
Source: purchased used
Read: for my own enjoyment
Pages: 310
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: It was a fairy tale come true when Mark Dorn--handsome pilot, widower, tragic father of three--chose Jiselle to be his wife. The other flight attendants were jealous: She could quit now, leaving behind the million daily irritations of the job. (Since the outbreak of the Phoenix flu, passengers had become even more difficult and nervous, and a life of constant travel had grown harder.) She could move into Mark Dorn's precious log cabin and help him raise his three beautiful children. But fairy tales aren't like marriage. Or motherhood. With Mark almost always gone, Jiselle finds herself alone, and lonely. She suspects that Mark's daughters hate her. And the Phoenix flu, which Jiselle had thought of as a passing hysteria (when she had thought of it at all), well . . . it turns out that the Phoenix flu will change everything for Jiselle, for her new family, and for the life she thought she had chosen.

My review: In a Perfect World falls into the category of one of my favorite forms of science fiction: 'literary' novels that take contemporary stories and make them more interesting (to this reader, anyway) by adding sci-fi elements. It tends to seem more realistic to me than some of the other popular sci-fi tropes. After all, if we did happen to live in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian world, would we actually be aware of it as such? (I guess that refers mostly to the dystopian scenario.) How many of us would get to be the hero(ine) who somehow gets wrapped up in some kind of epic adventure during which we find true love? Such stories make for fun reading, but the likelihood of their actual occurrence is practically nil.

But on the other hand, how many of us would be like Jiselle? Jiselle is your average stepmother. Sure, her romance seems rather fairy tale-ish at first, but it has all of the issues and questions of any other relationship. When the novel's particular brand of apocalypse creeps up, Jiselle, like, I would imagine, most people, isn't particularly concerned. She has everything else in life to worry about. It's super-realistic because, from the outset, how many of us would freak out about an illness that's not affecting us, our families, or our friends? We would all just go on with our day-to-day living. Even as society as we know it begins to disintegrate, it's only after the fact that one can look back and call it an apocalyptic scenario.

Anyway, I breezed right through In a Perfect World. It was just an easy, but engrossing, read. Jiselle and her stepchildren were simple characters in which to invest, and the author left you wanting to know what would happen to them without making the situation all uber-dramatic and cliff-hanging. At times, the writing seemed a little choppy, but overall this was a very thought-provoking, refreshing, and enjoyable read.

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