The Perfect Man

  • Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in Europe and South Asia
  • Long-listed for the Man-Booker Prize
  • Winner of the PEN Beyond Margins Award
  • Named one of School Library Journal Best Adult Books for High School Students
  • New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice selection
  • Publishers Weekly starred review

The Perfect Man succeeds in re-creating an entire world with a full spectrum of human emotions in a small Missouri town . . . It is only such writing, based on a universality of emotions, that can transcend language and nation and be handed over to another generation. The Times Literary Supplement

Identity, friendship, and a long-hidden crime . . .

Identity, friendship, and a long-hidden crime concerning the death of an autistic child, lie at the heart of this captivating novel about five friends growing up in a small 1950s Missouri river town. This story beautifully evokes the intense joys, as well as the dark and shameful desires, of childhood.

As a child, Rajiv Travers hasn’t had much luck fitting in anywhere. Born to an Indian mother who was sold to his English father for £20, Raj lives in London as a young child, but is then abandoned by his relatives into the reluctant care of Ruth, an American romance writer living in Pisgah, Missouri. While his skin color unsettles most of the townsfolk, the quick-witted Raj soon finds his place among a group of children his own age.

While the friends remain loyal to one another through the years, it becomes clear that their paths will veer in markedly different directions. But breaking free of the demands of their families and their community, as well as one another, comes at a devastating price: As the chilling secrets of Pisgah’s residents surface, the madness that erupts will cost Raj his closest friend even as it offers him the life he always dreamed of.

Taking us into the intimate life of small-town America, The Perfect Man explores both the power of the secrets that shape us and the capacity of love in all its guises to heal even the most damaged of souls.

This is the best novel I have read in many years, captivating for its beautifully crafted prose, its haunting dynamics, and the author’s complex evocation of a place and time through organic storytelling. Sunday Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Doing for 1950s small-town America what The Last Picture Show did in film, Naeem Murr has created a fully-fledged, self-contained world, with a vast array of characters, each quixotic and authentically flawed. Lionel Shriver, Financial Times

Murr elegantly explores smalltown insularity and secrecy in this Commonwealth Award-winning third novel . . . .  Murr takes a Faulknerian approach to his portrait of Pisgah, peopling it with minor characters whose eccentricities provide local color and shrouded gothic elements—one of which reverberates menacingly. Murr poignantly dramatizes love’s capacity to effect change. Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Inevitably, but with an unexpected range of fall-out, Murr reveals a small-town legacy of brutality, passion and vulnerability that lingers in the mind like an obsession. The Glasgow Herald

Readers of this beautiful and poignant account of an incredible American childhood will not soon forget it. San Francisco Chronicle

Delineating a balanced chiaroscuro between the substantive themes of truth versus secrecy, loyalty versus betrayal, and, of course, good versus evil, Murr’s vivid coming-of-age novel is a sumptuous tapestry teeming with hauntingly indelible characters. Booklist

This “Our Town”-ish locale is an ideal showcase for Murr’s impressive talents . . . a bit of hair-raising suspense has never been much of a reason to put a novel down.  Well-wrought characters and refreshingly clear prose are sufficient reasons to pick this one up. New York Times

Murr’s impressive literary abilities are applied to a gargantuan gothic panoramic spotlit with emotional insight. Kurkus Reviews

I can declare Naeem Murr’s third novel the perfect book.  It is the kind of book you know only a third of the way through that you’ll pick up again and again and read with the same amount of pleasure it gave you the first time.  It is so good that you have to pass your copy onto others, and then begrudge them their pleasure because you’re jealous it’s not yours. Business Day (South Africa)

An orphaned half-Indian, half British boy, Rajiv Travers, grows into the titular subject of this sprawling and delicately executed novel by Murr, who crafts a uniquely rich Southern Gothic about Rajiv’s arrival and adjustment into the small river town of Pisgah, Missouri . . . . There are shades of Robert Penn Warren in his noble populism, balanced by the moral turpitude of Flannery O’Connor, as everyone in Pisgah seems faultlessly flawed.  His prose is by turns both wry and good-ol’-boy, muscular during melodrama, yet elegant in the fricasseed anecdotes that create tension among the townsfolk. Chicago Time Out

A haunting novel, every page of Murr’s narration bristles with power.  As the children struggle through adolescence and the adults try to cope with their changing offspring, all are perfectly drawn scenes that slowly reveal the explosive bigger picture.  At once a study of humanity and acceptance, and a well-crafted small-town thriller, this is unputdownable.  Murr etches his characters so deeply on the imagination, and colors his writing so vividly that the pages seem to turn themselves. The Works, entertainment magazine

The flavor and texture of Murr’s latest novel is, quite simply, exquisite. He crafts characters with a complexity and intensity that they become more than “lifelike.” They become immortal. These are the Huck Finns and the Tom Joads and the Scout Finches who never die. Fredericksburg Freelance Star

Naeem Murr vividly evokes the passionate world of childhood and adolescence as he tells the compelling story of Rajiv Travers, the ultimate outsider, and his unlikely group of supporters in a small town in Missouri. The Perfect Man is a beautiful and fiercely readable novel. Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona

Naeem Murr’s The Perfect Man is astonishing in its depth and insight. In prose that is both spare and excruciatingly vivid, Murr’s warts-and-all portrayal of humanity haunts you long after you’ve turned the last page. Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

This nuanced, spellbinding novel is one of the most captivating I’ve ever read. From the lucid, breathtaking prose to the wicked humor, from the author’s deep and rare compassion to the ensemble cast of beautifully rendered, beautifully conflicted characters, the book explores not merely what it means to be young or innocent, not what it means to be an immigrant or American, but what it means to be human. Naeem Murr’s novel is a dark and gorgeous revelation. Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi: Stories