Every once in a while, there will be a book that takes the bookstore world by storm for just a brief moment of time. The distributor will initially send us two or three copies, not anticipating an absurdly positive review in the New York Times. Customers will then flock to the store in droves and demand a copy of the book that is now on back order, refusing to understand why we are sold out of a book that received such absurdly positive accolades and is in such high demand. Once we are flooded with copies of the book, no one seems to want it anymore. The Imperfectionists
is one of those books. Except, an absurd number of people came in asking for a book called The Paper by Christopher Buckley.
I don’t think one can really call this book a “novel.” It’s more like a set of interconnected short stories. Each chapter examines the foibles of a staff member — or, in one case, a reader — of an unnamed English-language newspaper in Rome. Ranging from the editor in chief to a practically-unemployed freelancer who has seen better days, The Imperfectionists is littered with ne’er-do-wells whose lives really leave little to be envied. They are sad, frustrated, and sometimes beaten-down people. However, you can’t help but to root for them. You want them to repair their torn romantic entanglements and succeed in their dead-end careers, even when you know it’s never going to happen.
Rachman has managed to create a handful of the most fantastic, rich characters I’ve read about in quite some time. Their realism, their quirks, their tics are all so entrancing, it’s hard to imagine that they are fictional creations. I really think Buckley has managed to describe it best: “I still haven’t answered that question, nor do I know how someone so young … could have acquired such a precocious grasp of human foibles.”
The Imperfectionists is an enjoyable, well-written, and moving book that certainly deserves its many, many accolades.