Imperfectionists (Review)

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The Imperfectionists
Tom Rachman, 2010
pp. 272

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
November 2010

"The Imperfectionists" is the perfect title for Tom Rachman's near perfect book. His characters are smart, talented, funny, sometimes kind, but always flawed—in other words, imperfect. They are wonderfully human.

Rachman presents us with an ensemble cast, a group of people working together to publish a Rome-based international newspaper. Each character gets his own chapter but reappears in others—making the book not so much a novel as a series of interlocking short stories.

The characters...and stories...are in turn hilarious and heart wrenching. Herman Cohen, the ever-strict corrections czar rants hopelessly against the likes of "Sadism Hussein" or the listing of Tony Blair as a deceased Japanese diplomat. His thundering edicts against bad writing, mostly ignored, fill a book that now numbers hundreds of pages. Yet out of the office and in his own story, we find a very different Herman than the blistering critic at the office.

On a plane back to the US, Abbey Pinnola, the paper's CFO, finds herself seated next to the very man she had just fired. What happens is stinging. Hardy Benjamin, the paper's young business writer, is savvy about finance but clueless about love. Arthur Gopal, the lack-luster obituary writer faces death in his own life that will alter him forever. And in the funniest story of the book, a poor young stringer in Cairo gets bamboozled by a veteran journalist with a supersized ego.

Rachman's writing is so good that NY Times reviewer Christopher Buckley felt sorry for him... wondering how he'll ever top this—his first, debut novel! Book clubs should have lively discussions about the characters—some likeable, some not—and the situations they find themselves in. And if you're not in a book club, then just read The Imperfectionists. You won't be disappointed.

See our Reading Guide for The Imperfectionists.

 

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