Title: A Nearly Perfect Copy
Author: Allison Amend
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Elm Howells loves her job at a prestigious auction house in New York, but the loss of her young son has her crippled with grief. Though some time has passed, Elm still finds it difficult to concentrate on her job as an expert in prints and drawings. Meanwhile, Gabriel Cannois is a young starving artist in Paris, and he’s more than ready to make it big. When a huge potential opportunity comes both Elm’s and Gabriel’s way, but presents serious moral issues, will they do what it takes to make themselves whole?
A Nearly Perfect Copy is a novel filled with broken characters who are willing to take huge risks in order to “fix” their lives. Elm is a sympathetic character, but the overwhelming grief she feels over her son’s death is a bit frustrating. Of course she should mourn her son, and a loss like that never fully heals, but she is completely stymied by everyday life. She can’t do her job, can’t be a wife, and can’t be a mother to her daughter, who is still very much alive, because she’s so invested in her long-term grief. It’s difficult to read about, though it makes the seemingly insane choices she makes later in the novel easier to understand.
Gabriel, meanwhile, is an easier character to like. He’s at the end of his rope when A Nearly Perfect Copy begins. He has the talent to make it in the art world, to be sure, but he lacks the connections and that one big break. The opportunity that comes his way is morally ambiguous, if not completely wrong, but Gabriel is desperate. The reader can feel how badly he wants success, sense his sheer desperation, and it, too, makes his choices understandable. Amend has a real talent at writing soul-crushing emotion, such that the reader can feel what these characters are experiencing each and every moment.
The plot of A Nearly Perfect Copy starts out ordinarily enough, but as the novel progresses, the reader realizes that it’s heading in a direction that is completely off the beaten path. Bad things have already occurred, yet you know somehow that things aren’t going to get any better. The reader can feel the sense of doom hovering over the novel, that at some point, every aspect that is so delicately balanced is going to come crashing down all at once. While things definitely stretch into the unbelievable, Amend writes at a brisk pace, such that the reader simply has to keep going in order to discover where these characters end up.
If you’re looking for a unique read with flawed, yet interesting characters, A Nearly Perfect Copy is a good choice. The setting of the art world is fascinating, and even if you might not like these characters or agree with the choices they’ve made, the intricate plot that Amend has woven will keep you hooked from beginning to end.