Reviews for Perfect Peace

Kirkus Reviews 2010 February #2
The author returns to the Arkansas setting of They Tell Me of a Home (2005).It's 1941, and Gustavus and Emma Jean Peace have just had their seventh child. Gus had hoped to be through having babies. Emma Jean--disappointed with six boys--is determined to try one last time for a girl. When God doesn't give her a daughter, she decides to make one herself. Naming the new baby "Perfect" and blackmailing the midwife to aid her in her desperate deception, Emma Jean announces the birth of a girl. For eight years, Emma Jean outfits her youngest child in pretty dresses, gives her all the indulgences she longed for in her own blighted girlhood and hides the truth from everyone--even herself. But when the truth comes out, Emma Jean is a pariah and her most-treasured child becomes a freak. It's hard to know quite what to make of this impassioned, imperfect novel. While another writer might have chosen to complement the sensationalism of his scenario with a tempered style, Black narrates his tale in the key of melodrama. He devotes a considerable number of pages to Emma Jean's experience as the unloved, darker (and therefore ugly) daughter, but since no amount of back story can justify Emma-Jean's actions, these passages become redundant. And, most crucially, Black builds toward the point when Perfect discovers that she's a boy, but seems confused about what to do with his character after this astonishing revelation. At the same time, the author offers a nuanced portrait of an insular community's capacity to absorb difference, and it's a cold reader who will be unmoved by his depictions. Original and earnest, informed both by human limitation and human potential. Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 December #1

In his third novel, Black revisits the small Arkansas town of Swamp Creek, also the setting of They Tell Me of a Home. This is the heartbreaking tale of Perfect, the seventh child born to Gustavus and Emma-Jean Peace in 1941. What should be a joyous occasion is clouded by Gus's conflict over having another mouth to feed. And Emma-Jean has an overwhelming desire to have a girl after giving birth to six boys. Deciding to deceive her family and others, Emma-Jean makes the decision to raise Perfect, born a boy, as a girl for the first eight years of his life. When circumstances force her to reveal the truth, everyone involved has to grapple with the consequences. VERDICT Black courageously delves into such sensitive issues such as sexuality, racism, and family dynamics and enchants readers with strong pacing and Southern imagery. Those who enjoy rich and complex works of literary fiction will be provoked to discuss this novel's many layers.--Lisa Jones, Birmingham P.L., AL

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 January #3

Black (The Sacred Place) explores the fateful decision of Emma Jean Peace to raise her seventh son, Perfect, as the daughter she has always wanted. Her plan, nutty as it is, works out until Perfect is eight years old and his blind older brother, Bartimaeus, makes an innocent discovery about his sister's body. Soon after, Perfect's friends begin talk of womanhood, prompting Emma Jean to reveal to Perfect the truth. So begins an education for Perfect--rechristened Paul--on manhood while his small Arkansas town casts an unforgiving eye on its newest curiosity. While the rural South backdrop is overly familiar and the dialogue is painfully hoary ("What chu talkin' 'bout, Emma Jean?"), Black manages a nuanced exploration of sexual identity and social structures without elevating his characters to angels or martyrs. (Mar.)

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