Book Review: The Forrests, by Emily Perkins

This book is in bookstores now, and is aImage finalist in the Fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Reading this book some time after its release and well after the first reviews, I feel privileged to not be influenced by other comments. I have few expectations. Seeing comments like ‘sad, pointless lives’ and ‘nothing happens’ made me wonder, did they really read THIS book? Of course others (more like me it seems) said it was ‘exquisite, carefully crafted and entrancing’. And it was all of that and more.

The Forrests are an almost normal family that move their family halfway across the world from an affluent New York lifestyle to what ends up being a challenging lifestyle in New Zealand. Emily Perkins is a master of observation and detail. The snippets of the family’s life that are revealed are believable and delicious. My book is dog-eared from all of the times I read a sentence that I wanted to treasure. For example, when describing the first view of the decrepit house where their estranged father was living,
The no-colour paint on the windowsills and door frame was crackled…
and, ‘Evelyn unpeeled her sandwich and tweezed out the alfalfa sprouts with her fingertips and dropped them into the sea.
and, when making a cake,
In the bowl they created a separated viscous swirl with the creamed-butter mixture, the yolk trailing through the pale butter, the transparent whites floating jellyfishy around the surface.

Emily Perkins is observant beyond belief, and her descriptions based on these observations, are absorbing. Utterly so. I loved this book that led me through this family’s seemingly ordinary life in a subtle and engrossing way. The reader is drawn into family and invited to fill in the blank between the episodic narrative.  This family is neither boring, nor ordinary, but it could be yours or mine. The ending is sad, but so is the ending of most lives. Dot, the mainly main character leaves these pages in a slightly confused way, but I suspect that, too, is the way in which many lives come to the final end.

Reviewed by Gillian Torckler

The Forrests
by Emily Perkins
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781408831496

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One thought on “Book Review: The Forrests, by Emily Perkins

  1. Pingback: Our reviews of New Zealand Post Awards finalist books |

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