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A Perfect Arrangement

Berne, Suzanne

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ISBN 10: 1565122615 / ISBN 13: 9781565122611
Verlag: Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A., 2001
Gebraucht Zustand: Fine Hardcover
Verkäufer Robinson Street Books, IOBA (Binghamton, NY, USA)

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1565122615 Fine Quality, Value, Experience. Media Shipped in New Boxes. Buchnummer des Verkäufers FEB16

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Bibliografische Details

Titel: A Perfect Arrangement

Verlag: Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A.

Erscheinungsdatum: 2001

Einband: Hardcover


Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Near Fine

Auflage: First Edition.

Über diesen Titel


Handsome and ambitious, Mirella and Howard Cook-Goldman have it all-two precious children, dual careers, a great old colonial house on Massachusetts's North Shore, a golden retriever. The only thing they lack is reliable child care.

Enter Randi Gill, sent by Family Options, Ltd., an agency specializing in Midwestern girls with teaching aspirations ("Could you be Comfortable with Anything but the Best for Your Family?. . . Guaranteed Nationwide FBI Criminal Fingerprinting and Background Checks."). Randi's references are perfect. She's perfect. She cleans, cooks, sews, and makes her own Play-Doh. The children love her . . . almost too much.

Though it's hard for Mirella to watch Randi succeed with the children where she has failed, she can't deny the peace and order Randi has brought to the household. But perfection is a tough act to maintain, and soon enough, there are ruptures. When events force Mirella and Howard to reveal the secrets they've been hiding from each other, the family cataclysm catapults the nanny (who has secrets of her own) into a position of unnatural control.

In A Perfect Arrangement, Suzanne Berne now fixes her sights on contemporary, two-career family life. Overscheduled and overwhelmed, today's parents are desperate for help. Whatever child care they manage to set up, the arrangements are rarely perfect. This suspenseful novel asks a question all of them face: "Is there anyone you can trust with your children?"


The setup for Suzanne Berne's second novel sounds positively gothic: Mirella (a lawyer) and Howard (an architect) desperately need a nanny to care for their two small children. Without carefully checking her references, they welcome the cozy-seeming Randi into their creaky Colonial saltbox. At first the arrangement does seem perfect: Randi cooks, cleans, and works wonders with the heretofore recalcitrant children. But slowly it becomes clear that her sunny, reliable temperament might be cloaking a darker past. In elegant, sometimes quite funny prose, Berne cleverly readies the reader for domestic atrocities in the gruesome tradition of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Then she subverts our expectations by showing that Mirella and Howard have their secrets, too--quiet compromises they've made to achieve their ideal home. The reader keeps waiting for the nanny horror show to begin, and meanwhile Berne shows a family falling apart under the pressure of trying to appear perfect. "Disaster could be small and dull and corrosive," she writes. "It might already have come."

To up the ante, Berne has installed her domestic ménage in a charming New England town, where main street is populated by quaint shops, and unsightly necessities (such as, say, the grocery store) are relegated to the hinterlands. Inhabiting the equivalent of a Norman Rockwell painting, each character is further pressed to idealize the notion of family; each has a distinctive mental image of what a home should look like. Anger and frustration and failure are suppressed until they surface in horrible, comic eruptions. Thus do Berne's characters ultimately learn to appreciate the "terrible, desirable, exhausting plenitude" of life. Admirers of Joanna Trollope's domestic dramas--by turns witty and harrowing--should find much to love in A Perfect Arrangement. --Claire Dederer

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