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PERFECT by Jeremy Dorfman



by Jeremy Dorfman

Pub Date: June 11th, 2022
ISBN: 979-8985579109
Publisher: Self

Dorfman’s collection of eight short stories explores themes of mental illness, familial rifts, and emotional uncertainty.

The book opens with “The Happiest Place,” about a family on vacation at a Florida theme park. An overenthusiastic father tries to orchestrate the greatest day of their lives, but it appears past traumas don’t disappear easily. “Rotini” is about a family meal, after which the parents plan to explain to their young daughter that they intend to divorce. The title story follows a man who strikes his spouse and then, consumed by depression, shame, and self-loathing, becomes obsessed with achieving a perfect bowling score. “The Porch” is about a lonely older man who develops an unexpected connection with a boy he catches playing a disgusting prank. The curious “What Do You Want Ferret?” introduces a man intent on buying a particular ferret to placate his partner only to encounter another man who beats him to it; the latter believes the animal houses the soul of his deceased father. The collection closes with “Beachgoers,” in which a couple have contrasting reactions to an encounter with a lost child. Dorfman’s writing excavates the complexities of relationships, from their mysterious beginnings to their often bitter endings. The story “Scar,” for instance, ponders how people know very little about each other when they first meet. Dorfman pinpoints this sense deftly in the space of a brief sentence: “She was an unknown entity, a thumbnail of a true human being.” Dorfman also effortlessly captures unexpected shifts of emotion by employing fresh, thought-provoking similes: “As she had many times before, she imagined him with their future children. The usual clear image was shaken, unsteady, like an old VHS tape that had degraded over time.” Compelling plotlines create veneers of normality that fall away to reveal underlying pain; the result is a dark collection that readers will likely want to finish in one sitting.

A compilation of intense, penetrative character observations.