Originally published April 2017
When it comes to parenting, is there such a thing as “perfect?” Ever?
Of course not — but that doesn’t mean we don’t try our best, for better or worse. And in Kevin Wilson’s “Perfect Little World,” Dr. Preston Grind sets out to right as many wrongs he can’t possibly right when he creates The Infinite Family project in the backwoods of Tennessee, bringing together nine sets of parents and single mom Izzy Poole.
It’s the laboratory version of “It takes a village” and then some.
Wilson may have a predilection for family dysfunction, with “Perfect Little World” following his bestselling “The Family Fang.” But it works, and readers may find themselves instantly pulled into the lab along with Izzy and Cap as they join nine other families willing to participate in Dr. Grind’s ultimate child psychology experiment — that of being raised by not just one, but by multiple parents, in a carefully controlled, “perfect” setting.
Izzy is a compelling participant — just 18, pregnant by her high school art teacher and most decidedly on her own, she knows an offer to join a utopian child development experiment is her one way ticket out of a life with which she never quite meshed. Gifted yet unmotivated, her only consistent companionship outside of her teacher/lover Hal is her boss, Mr. Tannenhill. Her mother is dead and her dad is a drunk and has no interest in her or her baby. So why not take up Dr. Grind on a great offer? So what if it means Cap won’t know she is his mother until he’s five?
Actually, the concept isn’t that far-fetched. “It takes a village …” was a concept long before it entered the political lexicon of the 90s. And if you’re lucky, you find that village, either through immediate and extended family, or in my case, the sisterhood of mothers with which I’ve raised my kids. Beginning with the neighborhood of moms that gathered for impromptu playdates and happy hours, straight through to friendships established through sharing bleacher space at the hockey rink and pool, volunteer hours with the marching band and sidelines on the soccer field, these were people I trusted would watch out for my kids in my absence. These were the people I learned from along the way and that didn’t give me shit for making the occasional mistake. I was and continue to be blessed by and with these friendships that I expect will last long after my last one leaves the nest.
But Dr. Grind’s family extends beyond those relationships, which he discovers he truly has zero control over, to the circumstances and space that surround the children as well. A fantasy existence, surely, but not without consequences. For what happens when your baby bonds with another adult? Or you bond deeper with a baby that isn’t of your flesh? Or a parent “bonds” with another parent? Dr. Grind is coming from a good place, opposite the experiences he had as a child with parents devoted to the Constant Friction theory. But the best of intentions don’t always make for the best outcomes. As Preston discovers, “Parents do everything they can for their children, unable to conceive of the child’s future, hoping only that they’ve done enough to protect them.”
Is there a happily ever after for Izzy? For Dr. Grind? For any of the Infinite Family? If perfect is a concept, so is happy. I recommend you read to find out. Great for a weekend, a vacation, a road trip … thoroughly entertaining for sure.