A Perfect 10
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978553-39414-6
ISBN: 978-0-553-39415-3 (eBook)
September 2016
General Fiction

London, England The Present

First, this is a hard book to get into, but your curiosity will drive you on. It's about dying, more particularly, a person's last days.

It starts with a letter sent to the living from the dead. Then you meet Stella at her first meeting with Vincent, the man who will be the love of her life. Later you learn she is a night nurse working at the Marie Francis Hospice and Rehabilitation Center. A night nurse because, since Vincent has come back from Afghanistan with burn scars and missing part of a leg, it is easier to be awake when he is sleeping. Their unsatisfactory encounters are fewer this way since Vincent's avoidance of her hurts. At the hospice, Stella is known by the patients for her kindness and writing last letters for them. Shadow the cat comes in at night, too. No one knows how he enters, but he brings the patients comfort, so his presence is permitted. Issy, a fourteen year old girl, and Grace, an older woman with no family, are two of Stella's current hospice patients.

You will also meet Hope, a rehabilitation patient at Marie Francis. She has cystic fibrosis and knows her life span is limited. She likes music but has a very constricted life and view of her contribution to the living. Matter of fact, she is recuperating from an infection that nearly killed her. Ben, her good friend since childhood, comes to visit her every day.

You might find it hard to see how Hugh figures into this. He works at a museum and is emotionally very self-contained. His last girlfriend gave him a black cat named Jake. Jake puts up with Hugh and the little affection he receives. Gradually, you will learn the terrible event Hugh must face.

The story is broken up into seven nights, with points of view changing from Hope to Stella to Hugh, and even once from Vincent. Shortly you will find yourself tied up in the various narratives. While you will discover the tone of the book somber, it covers some tough topics with some compelling messages. Along with those physically dying, some of the characters are emotionally dying, or at least terribly restricted. Then you'll start wondering how Stella and Vincent's relationship can survive. What can life offer Hope? Can Hugh learn to trust love? Trust his own emotions? The story will keep you reading. It is emotional, filled with sorrow, but also with resilience and hope, a bit of humor, and lots of humanity, which earns it the Perfect 10.

Robin Lee