by Patrick, August 23, 2010 3:53 PM
It really is as good as you've heard it is, and if you haven't heard someone raving about it, let me be that person. A member of that burgeoning category of book that declines to be easily identifiable as either a novel or book of short stories, The Imperfectionists blurs the two forms into something wonderful. Centered around the rise and fall of an English-language daily paper based out of Rome and started on a whim by a wealthy businessman, each chapter of The Imperfectionists focuses on a different character associated with the paper. It's a hard trick to pull off, but the revolving door of protagonists introduces a cast that is fully realized and wholly human, despite the slim page-count devoted to each one. That they drift in and out of one another's stories only serves to add depth to our perception of them. Interspersed with the often hilarious, sometimes gut-wrenching glimpses into the crew's personal lives is the story of how the paper came to be — a story about an inscrutable millionaire of whom Tom Rachman gives us only a hauntingly peripheral view. With its sucker-punch of an ending and it's fizzy blend of humor, despair, love, and hate, The Imperfectionists reads like riding a Vespa top speed through Rome: glimpses of a bigger picture that add up to something beautiful.