The International Writers Magazine: Review

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
Hodder- ISBN: 9780340897225
A Jen Ames Review

"When heaven breaks, who fixes it?" What makes this book by Jodi Picoult, so powerful is the voice of five-year-old Nathaniel. A heart-wrenching tale of a desperate mother struggling between what is legally wrong, and morally right, and who makes terrible mistakes in her efforts to take away all the pain that’s been forced on her beloved little boy.

The story is about Nina Frost, an assistant district attorney; who’s job is split directly down the middle. On one hand she’s trying to prosecute paedophiles and rapists and protect children who have been tortured and abused by strangers, and on the other she’s trying to be the best mother and wife as she can, and to protect her own family. Her son Nathaniel is her world followed in close second by her husband Caleb. The title of the book comes from an endearing scene where Nina is explaining what it’s like to feel love for your children, where she explains that when she goes to comfort him and they curl up together, it’s like they were made to fit together, mother and son, an unbreakable bond. However this bond is put to the test in the most terrible of circumstances, when Nina learns that her own little boy has been the victim of rape. In her line of work, she has seen so many traumatised kids crumble at the court hearing and seen so many vile rapists walk free, that she cannot bear to put Nathaniel through the same: and takes her own drastic measures to protect him, with dire consequences.

The best feature of this book and the most powerful tool in the narration is Picoult’s ability to become each character as she writes form their perspective. Before every chapter we get a snippet of monologue from 5 year old Nathaniel’s thoughts, they are so childlike and innocent you imagine they came straight from the mouth of a small child, not from Picoult herself. These snippets and they way she gets inside all the other characters emotions paints the most incredible picture of love and devotion, which makes the wrenching apart of this happy family all the more painful to read. One snippet in particular that got to me was when Nathaniel asks who fixes heaven if it breaks. At the beginning of the book it seems like a simple childlike inquisition, as simple as, where does the sun go at night, or why do we breath oxygen? (other questions he asks along the way) – but by the end of the book that one line will haunt you. Heaven is his home with his doting mother, his adoring father, and his faithful companion Mason the dog life before that awful day when he was violated by someone he trusted and someone who was supposed to protect him.

Picoult has an extrodinary way of developing characters, not just in the way they think and act but in the way they relate to each other, it’s so hard to remember that it’s just a story, it seems so horrifically real. The relationship between Nina and her husband is depicted as perfect, undying and unbreakable, but it’s not done in such a way that it becomes false and it’s not obvious to what extent it’s going to be damaged. The book really does keep you guessing, the whole way through, the twists and turns will have you gripped and captured and you will gasp out loud at some of the events. Even when it appears a loose end has been tied up, and you know what’s happening, the whole story does an about face and takes you by surprise and in a totally different direction.

This is definitely a book for adults and definitely not for the faint hearted because it will bring you to tears, shake you up and it will leave you feeling as if Nathaniel is your son, and this has all happened to you. If you have children this book will strike a chord with you because you know what it is like to love unconditionally and to want to lay down your life to protect your own, but even if you haven’t got them, you will feel like you know what it is like to do so.

This novel could certainly be described as a social commentary, it has always been a fact that the legal system has gaps and loopholes, and there have been many stories of falsely accused parents, traumatised children and the guilty walking free. It als0o highlights the horrors that the victims and their families go through to get the so called justice, that may or may not lock away a criminal for a mere three years. Perhaps where children are concerned the law should be revised, these loopholes need to be closed if we are going to protect children, and anyone who reads this book will no doubt feel the same way.
© Jen Ames Jan 2007

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