From a distance, Felix Fitzwilliam, the son of an old English family, is a good husband and father. But, obsessed with order and routine, he’s a prisoner to perfection. Disengaged from the emotional life of his North Carolina family, Felix has let his wife, Ella, deal with their special-needs son by herself.
A talented jewelry designer turned full-time mother, Ella is the family rock…until her heart attack shatters their carefully structured existence. Now Harry, a gifted teen grappling with the chaos of Tourette’s, confronts a world outside his parents’ control, one that tests his desire for independence.
As Harry searches for his future, and Ella adapts to the limits of her failing health, Felix struggles with his past and present roles. To prevent the family from being ripped apart, they must each bend with the inevitability of change and reinforce the ties that bind.
What I Thought:
I approached The Perfect Son assuming, from the description, that it was primarily about Harry, who suffers from Tourette’s, but actually when you start to read, it is much more about the reactions of Harry’s parents, Felix and Ella to their change in family life, as Harry’s Tourette’s seems to have been micro-managed by Ella for most of his life. When Ella’s influence is removed, Felix needs to step up and his world, that has previously been a perfect sanctuary for him, has to change instantly.
One of the main things I enjoyed about the book was that it educated me on Tourette’s – I am familiar with the popular image of Tourette’s i.e. shouting obscene language in public. Actually, only a small percentage of Tourette’s sufferers exhibit this behaviour, with uncontrollable tics being a much more common manifestation.
I found the Fitzwilliam family to be very likeable and relatable – who among parents can’t associate with Ella and her battle for her child? Granted, Harry’s circumstances may be more challenging than some children, but as parents we all feel the pressure to ease our childrens’ way in the world. What parent could also say that they’ve never suffered the same doubts as Ella about their abilities as a parent??
At one point, Felix is described as an ‘antihero’ and this is quite true. His demands on Harry are sometimes so excessive that you want to hate him, but as you hear more from his point of you, you realise that he has more in common with Harry than you might think, and his back story is really heartbreaking.
There is a great cast of supporting characters too, and the environment of Durham, North Carolina is beautifully observed. Overall, this book is a fantastic find with a nuanced plot that plays out at a gentle pace – an ideal holiday read.
eCopy received from Netgalley.