I was tellling a friend last night about In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke. Her response was, “How much did you pay for this book?” She felt it was an outrageous story, even ridiculous. Well, I couldn’t disagree more.
In a Perfect World takes place in the good ole U.S.A. However, America has been ravaged by a virus called the Phoenix flu. Over the course of several months, hundreds, then thousands, and then millions die. There is no known cause; rumors circulate that imported human hair may be the culprit, but no one is really certain. Gas climbs to eleven dollars a gallon. Banks fail. Electricity goes off and on and then off. Food is scarce. Air travel comes to a halt. Foreign countries are unaffected and do not want Americans seeking refuge in their borders. Schools close. Hospitals are overwhelmed. There is no medicine, no vaccines to give. The economy crumbles. Wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, children die. Pets, suddenly without owners, plunge into the wild. Rats are everywhere and then they are nowhere. Gangs are rampant. Violent crime is rising. Vigilantes roam the streets. This crisis occurs during wartime and also happens during a time of extreme climatic changes.
The main character is Jiselle. She is a former airline stewardess who marries a pilot. Jiselle soon learns he married her only so she would take care of his three children. The two teenaged girls see Jiselle as a wicked stepmother. But throughout the course of the novel, they are drawn together in crisis.
I think this story is not as outlandish as you might think. What if swine flu was much more serious and much more widespread in our country? It could happen…
In the book, the wife of the governor of California dies. No name is given. The secretary of state resigns. Again, no name is used. The characters see such death around them, but it takes the death of Britney Spears to really bring the point of the flu home.
That’s not so outrageous either. Case in point is yesterday with the boy in the balloon. We saw that balloon rise and fall on live TV. So why wouldn’t TMZ be right outside Britney’s door, staking out her sickroom? Donald Trump’s son and Brad Pitt’s brother also succumb to flu. No one is above the flu, not the rich, not the famous, not the beautiful.
It is a great book. I would recommend you read it alongside Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague (which I found today, long forgotten, on my bookshelf–I need a card catalog to navigate my own library) and Summer of the Apocalypse by James Van Pelt.