Author: Daniel Black
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Date Published: 2010
Recommended Age: Adult
Reviewed By: Engelia McCullough, http://engeliamccullough.weebly.com/blog.html
Rating (Scale of 1-5): 5
Where I got the book from: Amazon
As a child of southern parents, the landscape and people of the south are things I know well and hold dear to my heart. With summers spent running barefoot in the dirt with a slew of siblings and cousins, playing hours upon hours of red light, green light and twilight barbeques the south is a part of me that I’ll never be able to relinquish. Author Daniel Black does an excellent job of placing the reader in the center of the Peace’s living room in the spring of May 17, 1940 as their lives change forever with the birth of Perfect Peace. Swamp Creek is reminiscent of any African-American small town in the Deep South where everyone knows everyone, familial lines are often blurred, hard choices are made and even harder consequences realized.
Emma Jean is a woman blessed with six boys, her husband Gus who loves as best he knows how and one baby on the way. When her seventh, and last child, is born a boy and not the girl she so desperately wanted Emma Jean decides to raise the baby as a girl. Christened Perfect Peace, despite objections from their congregation, Emma Jean hides the real gender of the baby from family and friends. That is until Perfect turns eight and Emma Jean makes the decision to reveal the truth to everyone setting the family and the community on a path exploring everything from social intolerances to human dignity. Told in the third person, Black has allowed the reader the opportunity to view the rise, decline and future successes of the Peace family from different character’s point of views.
Perfect is the reason I enjoyed this book. His voice is so distinct yet often clouded by the insecurities thrust upon him by his mother’s selfish decision. Perfect made me feel her confusion and withdrawal when his gender was ripped away from him. Black did such a great job of developing Perfect as a girl that when the transition to a male is made, I found myself still referring to the child as a girl. The transition is well established and seamless from character development, language to actions. There is a revolution at every corner that will leave the reader’s heart twisted in agony and pounding with anxiety.
A woman named Henrietta is the midwife for Swamp Creek. Threatened by Emma Jean, she is forced to keep the Peace secret. The mystery of what Emma Jean has on Henrietta is just one of many and one of the reasons you will have to pick up a copy of Perfect Peace.
The six Peace boys each have their own gifts that make them unique and ultimately shape who they will become. This is a challenge for Perfect as he struggles to infiltrate the circle of Peace boys. As an escape, Perfect often turns to her best friend, Eva Mae. Eva Mae is a constant in Perfect’s life even if it is not always for the good. She is a character to keep one eye open on.
Perfect Peace contains many interesting characters. As you read, you begin to understand the most important character is Emma Jean. It’s as if Black wants to show how a split second decision by a parent can impact a child for the rest of his, or her, life. But it also made me realize that the choices we made should not be made without much consideration. That a small thing to us can be quite the opposite for another and may not be able to be corrected or taken back as Emma Jean tries to do with Perfect.
If you want to really find out how a mother could betray her own family in such a drastic move and what happens to Perfect Peace, go buy Perfect Peace now!