Review: In A Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

In-a-Perfect-World-199x300It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine.. that song kept running through my head as I was reading this book..

In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke is a story set in the near future.  It’s a dystopian family drama, with a growing sense of doom extending right through to the very end.

Jiselle is a busy flight attendant who, at 32 years of age, has been a bridesmaid six times. After one particularly difficult evening at work (seven hours in a plane full of passengers that never left the runway) she is sitting in an airport bar, sipping a glass of wine, when a gorgeous pilot, Captain Mark Dorn, takes notice of her.  Three months later, after a whirlwind courtship, they become engaged.

It’s on the afternoon of Mark and Jiselle’s engagement that they see the white balloons for the first time.  One balloon for every victim of the Phoenix flu.  Groups in every major American city are releasing white balloons.  Are they a compassionate expression of concern, or a political statement and condemnation of the current administration in the White House?  The media can’t decide.

And when Mark and Jiselle go out of the country for their honeymoon, they are warned that people aren’t renting rooms to Americans.  Taxi drivers won’t drive Americans. Jiselle and Mark view it all as a minor inconvenience rather than any kind of true threat. The Phoenix flu, reminiscent of swine flu or bird flu, is spreading across America and beyond. Fear and panic are taking hold throughout the world and Americans are being shunned wherever they go.  But Mark and Jiselle are in love *cue the angels* so they don’t focus on that.

Before Jiselle knows what hit her she is living in Mark’s log cabin and stepmom to his three children.  Everything is picture-perfect.  Unfortunately, Mark’s daughters hate her and make no effort to hide it, but Mark’s little boy Sam is a sweetie and they form a bond.

The new family has some adjustment issues.  Jiselle quits her job to take care of the kids, and Mark, due to his flight schedule, is frequently absent.  The older girls are horrible to Jiselle but she remains kind to them.  The family situation reaches a crisis level and their marriage is put to the test when Mark, after a flight to Germany, is quarantined for months in that country. Even though the kids and Jiselle are still getting to know one another, they must rely on each other as the flu becomes a pandemic and the outlook is dire.  Will the family survive?

This isn’t an easy review to write because the book has a bit of an identity crisis.  Is it a ripped-from-the-headlines tale about a flu epidemic?  Yes.  Is it a romance?  Sort of.  A family drama? Sure.  Just when I thought the story would go down one path, it went down another.  I was most drawn into the story line about the pandemic.  I’ve got the swine flu symptoms memorized and my kids never leave the house without hand sanitizer, so I read that part with fascination and dread.  The fact that something like this could happen (is happening) makes it scary.  The author included plenty of information surrounding the flu and the spread of disease to make it timely and realistic.

But the reading experience wasn’t intense.  I wasn’t on the edge of my seat.  I thought Jiselle was a little silly, worrying more about her relationship (‘he hasn’t called.. what does it mean?’) when there were much bigger things to worry about, like how they would survive.  I was less interested in the romance and subsequent family drama than about the pandemic, and when Jiselle would blather on about how handsome Mark was, it was all I could do not to skim and skip ahead to get back to the sections about the flu.  It felt like two separate stories, with the one being much more compelling than the other.

I liked this book for the beautiful writing.  It was a quick read that I didn’t put down until I had finished it.  But I didn’t care for the ending.  I don’t need a perfect ending but I do like to have something of a clue as to what happens.  It’s all left up to speculation, which would probably make it an excellent choice for a book club.  They could debate what happens to this family. They could give opinions on what, if anything, Jiselle heard at the end.

In a Perfect World isn’t perfect, however I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject matter.  It’s a thought provoking read and one I won’t soon forget.

For other opinions of the book, check out the rest of Laura Kasischke’s virtual book tour:

Monday, October 12th – Starting Fresh

Wednesday, October 14th – BookNAround

Thursday, October 15th – Book Club Classics!

Monday, October 19th – A Reader’s Respite

Friday, October 23rd – The Book Nest

Monday, October 26th – Galleysmith

tlc-logo-resizedThursday, October 29th – A High and Hidden Place

Monday, November 2nd – Word Lily

Tuesday, November 3rd – Books on the Brain

Thursday, November 5th – Write Meg

Many thanks to Trish for including me on this TLC Book Tour.

Sunday Salon

images-1Happy Sunday!  We are having a lovely fall weekend in Southern California that actually feels like fall- cool and crisp with a light wind.  The weather put me in such a fall mood that I made a big batch of pumpkin bread yesterday and curled up with my book all afternoon.  The kids were busy with homework and friends and the hub had little projects all day, so I was able to take a break from being the Family Boss and do whatever I wanted.  It was nice!

In-a-Perfect-World.JPGThis morning they are giving out free flu shots at our church (not H1N1, just the regular flu) and I’m forcing my family to get them.  The kids are not happy and I’m gearing up for a scene with them later, but I will stand firm and insist on the shots.  I mean, you can’t beat ‘free’, and I want us all to have them.  Especially after the book I finished yesterday, In a Perfect World, about a flu pandemic that spreads across the country and then the world, killing thousands and causing all kinds of panic and hysteria.   Good book, by the way, and very timely, what with the Swine Flu always in the media.  We’ll be getting Swine Flu shots as soon as they make those available.  Are you getting flu shots this year?

My book club meets this afternoon to discuss Olive Kitteridge.  New England clam chowder and donuts are on the menu!  Olive is an odd bird, but I really liked her, and by the end of the book I felt I knew her better than probably any other character I’ve ever read about.  And I missed her when the book was over!  I loved the way the book was set up with different stories, some about Olive and some not, although she makes at least a brief appearance in each one.  I’m looking forward to this discussion.

43594542.JPGSo I’m currently in-between books!  I’ve got a ton to choose from but nothing that’s screaming my name and no pressing obligations.  I think I’ll go through my TBR pile and read the first couple of pages of each one until something grabs me.  The first few on the stack are:  Who by Fire, Julie and Julia, Homer and Langley, The Middle Place, Precious, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  I want to read at least 2 of them before I sit down with my November book club pick, The Wednesday Sisters.  Any suggestions?

Hope you’re all have a relaxing weekend! Have a great week, and thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain!