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The Perfect Man

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  468 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Europe and South Asia.
Winner of the 2008 PEN Beyond Margins Award.

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,
Paperback, 468 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks
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Jun 18, 2009 Sally rated it it was amazing
"The Perfect Man" sounds like a title of a romance novel, but it is anything but (though one of the characters is a romance novelist). I selected this book for the June 2009 meeting of my Mostly Literary Fiction Book Group, which meets at the Hayward Public Library. Several members did not like the book, and seriously wondered why I selected it. As is often the case, however, disagreement about the book generated one of the most animated and interesting discussions we have had of any book to dat ...more
Nov 13, 2011 Tiffini rated it it was amazing
The Perfect Man is an original, dense, complex and deeply satisfying novel. Murr has created a superbly crafted and carefully populated small town with all its secrets, lies, prejudices and gossip.
I found myself completely lost in the pitch perfect dialogue of this impeccably well written book. Damn, such rich and intensely interesting characters some of which I adored, others of which I loathed.
This is a dark book but it is certainly not pessimistic and it is one of the best novels I have read
Oct 28, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is an excellent novel, full of interesting (if largely flawed) characters, a compelling trio of lifelong friends, the tragedies that can come from thwarted lives and fateful decisions, and an ode to how a displaced boy can find community, family, and one day, some solace and hope.

The "Perfect Man" is Rajiv, a boy born of an Indian mother and British father who is dumped by his ne'er-do-well dad on the doorstep of a woman who had been living with his brother in a tiny town in Missouri. The d
Brenda Senturia
May 24, 2009 Brenda Senturia rated it really liked it
This is a book of paradoxes. Every biological parent in the book is a disaster in one way or another, but some of the children manage to muddle through. The best parent turns out to be Ruth, who doesn't even want to be a parent, but manages to be seduced into love by Raj. There are some strong characters and some puzzling ones. Annie is wise, yet very conflicted because of her strong emotional compass. Raj is tough to decipher, precisely because he doesn't want anyone to get too close to his fe ...more
Belinda Nicoll
Aug 26, 2012 Belinda Nicoll rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who love character-driven stories
Recommended to Belinda by: MFA set work
Although I read this finely-crafted, character-driven story, this is a review of a different kind: I'd like to share my insights about the author rather than the book, since I have the pleasure of knowing him and because I believe it will give you an understanding for all his works. In the fourth semester of my MFA in Creative Writing program, I requested to work with Naeem Murr, who’s held in high regard at Queens University of Charlotte.

This creative writing wizard exudes a genteel serenity, u
Michelle Lemaster
May 28, 2009 Michelle Lemaster rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michelle by: Mostly Literary Book Discussion Group
I like the writing right off in this book, though I was a little off-put by the title. To me it sounded as though I were to embark on a romance novel.

Well now I"m finished and I must say there are few authors who can create as rich and intensely interesting characters as deftly as Naeem Murr. I felt, at times, as though I were looking at the characters through a prism where a shift of light could changes my perspective entirely, from shadow to light. Ultimately, with either light or shadow, the
Sharah Ludlow
Sep 14, 2011 Sharah Ludlow rated it it was ok
I say that I like it, but I'm still a bit ambivalent about the book. I enjoyed it enough to finish it, but I also thought it was a dark take of small town America/people. Every adult in this book was either mentally unstable, corrupt, unhappy, a racist, a drunkard, adulterer or pervert. Plus, every adult had some dark secret in their past. Maybe I'm naive, but I assume that most people don't have dark pasts. I'm amazed that even two kids from this town grew-up to have somewhat normal lives with ...more
Apr 26, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it
This book has a misleading (and bad) title as it sounds like a Sex and the City type dating novel. Hardly. The story is about a young boy from India who's father was British. Through a series of events he ends up living with a strong-willed, single woman in a small American town. The book weaves stories about all the town's inhabitants together and, I thought, was quite compelling. A bit overdramatic at times but I really liked it. I found it at the local library. I think Meghan and Shantell wou ...more
Nicole M.
Mar 27, 2016 Nicole M. rated it it was amazing
What: Rajiv, a sort of unwanted love child born in India, finds himself settled in a small Missouri town for the better part of his life. He takes root there, and becomes great friends with Annie, Lew, Nora, and Alvin. Each of them have their own secrets and habits, but they get along very well (for the most part) and grow into young adults together. They have their love, lust, and quarrels, as any friends. As it is in such a small town, all the inhabitants are familiar with one another, so all ...more
Jan 23, 2009 Kevin rated it it was amazing
I picked this up because of the rave review others (Melora) gave. My thought was, hmm, a biography of me? Let's go.

Seriously, this is a fantastic example of what modern literature should look like; enthralling from the start with a deep sense of the happiness and misery of life. The characters are beautifully developed ranging from the disturbed to the compassionate with many points in between. I would recommend this to any and everyone.
Jan 01, 2010 Alan rated it really liked it
I was tempted to give this novel a 5, as there is something special about picking up a paperback nvoel and author youe never heard of and having it be this wonderful amd memorable. the amazingly vivid and quirky and intense characters and plot situtationss reminded mye of The Book Thief, so i hope Elaine reads this and explains to me why. I need a 4.5 category, so EM Forster can stand alone on the Mountain top.
Nov 26, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it
Hearing him speak made me want to read what he was speaking out.
Other than a few questions about the historical accuracy of 1950s teenage sarcasm, a lovely, troubling trip to Missouri.
Benjamin Zapata
Oct 02, 2011 Benjamin Zapata rated it it was amazing
This is such a heartbreaking and beautiful book,the best comin-of age novel I've read so far. The prose is breathtaking,and the characters are so real and alive,they get under your skin. I fell in love with all of them,but above all with Raj,Annie, and Lew. When I finish reading the last page,it was sad to realize how a group of adults destroy the mental,phisical,and spiritual innocence of a kid,in this case Lew,the hell he went in his everyday life,getting no help from his doctor or his dad,fin ...more
Apr 04, 2010 Susan added it
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Europe and South Asia.

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 Engli
Jun 15, 2008 Melora rated it it was amazing
When I joined a book club with a friend and was made aware of this selection, at first I was afraid that it was a saccharin love story/romance. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I had a tough time believing that a man wrote this book, since almost every male character in it is a complete waste of oxygen! And the ones who are not complete jerks are sad sacks, either alcoholics or social phobics or mentally ill.

So I then became afraid, part of the way into this novel, that this author had
Apr 07, 2012 Nicole rated it liked it
There were some strains to this story that were interesting enough to compel me to finish, though in the category of "lonely, frustrated people in small towns", many have done much better (my favorite is still Sherwood Andersen's Winesburg, Ohio"). But I hated all the characters, and I resent Murr for making them so one-dimensional and inorganic. The jumps in chronology create some disappointing holes that need to be filed, particularly because the development of the characters during those jump ...more
Jul 12, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This book really impressed me. All of the characters, and there were many, were so well-developed and with such complexity. What was most impressive was that a lot of that character development was driven by what they didn't do or say, not what they did. It was just beautifully subtle, and it didn't shy aware from the worst aspects of humanity. The author also did a really impressive job of describing the thinking of a child who is slipping into psychosis, with a complexity and deftness that dem ...more
Judith Yeabsley
Jul 02, 2015 Judith Yeabsley rated it really liked it
The first chapter of the book was one of the funniest I have read, brilliant. Unfortunately not sustainable .. The book was well written and alternated between funny, poignant, dark and really sad. However, I think it could have benefited from a ruthless editor as there were whole passages that were tangential and seemed to be the author showing off his writing skills. Overall a good read and would definitely grab another of his books :)
Jun 24, 2007 Kate is currently reading it
A bit choppy - moves briskly in parts then drags - the writing is also a bit sporadic - in parts it flows beautifully, other parts it is as if the author has challenged himself to be as obtuse or high falutin' as possible - these parts I skim (but my vocabulary is improving despite my efforts to avoid).

Also, seems to be afflicted with a bit of the "everyone has a deep, dark, past or odd sexual tendencies" Oprah drama.

The negatives said, the characters are sharp and interesting, most of the writ
Dec 04, 2010 Jennifer rated it liked it
The story of fitting in, pleasing others and managing the expectations your family has for you and childhood molding your future. I think that Raj seems like the perfect man in his character. These characters all come from broken homes and lives much like the real world. They must decide who they are and what is right for them. I don't agree that Annie made a good decision to stay with Leu because he was mentally ill. Not a sacrifice I would make. I guess there was no real decision to be made. G ...more
Sarah Funke
May 04, 2009 Sarah Funke rated it it was ok
I read this a full year ago. I can't remember what I thought. That's not a good sign. A gmail search finds me telling one friend, "It hurts my head, all those characters with all those wacky problems! I smell a minor Hollywood ending for the only two left standing, though, we'll see. TOO MANY METAPHORS AND SIMILES! Never thought it was possible." So, this doesn't sound like I liked it a whole lot. And I do love a good metaphor.

So I flipped through to see what I marked up. There are some doozies.
Jul 14, 2010 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: gossips with a heart of gold
the coming of age tale of a whip-smart bordering caustic british/ indian boy in small town missouri in the 1950s. it's a small town gothic read. raj, abandoned by his parents in england and sent to where his uncle is living in missouri with a romance writer shows up only to learn his uncle had committed suicide the day before. the plot continues to contract and exhale around the members of this town, many of whom are living stuck lives that become loose as the plot moves forward. he makes wonder ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Torimac rated it liked it
This book was both very disturbing and rich in emotion. It was really about the ugly side of post world war II small town america. People trying to form communities despite xenophobia. I really enjoyed the author's writing style.
Jan 03, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It was one of the best novels I've read in a long time. It's the story of a backwater small town in Missouri in the 1950s. Its residents are all hiding the darkest parts of themselves -- in attics, in false sanity, in religion, in abandoned shacks. There is a lively plot (a whodunnit, a love story, among other things), but this book is mostly about the development of these hugely flawed characters.

It does take a while to figure out who's who here, and there is some awkward ski
Sep 10, 2007 Yz rated it it was amazing
After reading this book I stopped reading fiction for a while, because I wanted to let the feelings this book brought up to stew a little.

It's strange and wonderful when a book seems to be telling your story, when it is clearly not (that's not what I mean -- you know what I mean). Even stranger and more wonderful when you think it is also telling the stories of people around you. The universal contained in the one -- will I ever manage that?

I was scared and exhilarated, and I am not joking or
Apr 19, 2009 Karen added it
The Perfect Man is a tough read.

Murr creates a cast of characters who evoke, at least in me, a range of responses from deep sympathy (for the children and adolescents of the story, who are victimized by the adults around them and cling to each other with heartbreaking loyalty), ambivalent regard (especially for the adult women who were living sad, stuck lives, often because of how their own childhoods led them to marry the men they did), to downright hatred (several of the adult characters and
Sep 13, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Very ambitious, largely fulfilled. I might have skipped a moment or two. I spent a moment or two wondering about the premise, but ... just great.
Sep 17, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
I'm not entirely sure how I feel. The book is of a high caliber, but I struggled much with what felt like dark for the sake of dark characters. I felt so morose and often had to skim the really ugly parts because it seemed wasteful. There were also so many characters that I couldn't remember who was whom much of the time. That said, something pulled me through to read quickly, to see what happened next. I felt unsatisfied at the end like it was tied up too quickly without a real understanding of ...more
Feb 13, 2010 Bree rated it really liked it
I love a good tale about a mysterious past filled with long dead buried secrets and this book did not disapoint. The plot was compelling, the characters fully articulated, and the writing competent. Despite the title of the book, all the male characters in the book were absolutely noxious. Copming from a woman, the unflinchingly harsh depections of the male characters might seem a bit angry womyn-ish, but as the author is a man, the treatment of the male characters is perhaps an interesting comm ...more
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Naeem Murrʼs first novel, The Boy, was a New York Times Notable Book. Another novel, The Genius of the Sea, was published in 2003. His latest, The Perfect Man, was awarded The Commonwealth Writersʼ Prize for the Best Book of Europe and South Asia, and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. His work has been translated into eight languages. He has received many awards for his writing, most recen ...more
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