Book review: The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: July 1, 2015
Source: Kindle First

From a distance, Felix Fitzwilliam, the son of an old English family, is a good husband and father. But, obsessed with order and routine, he’s a prisoner to perfection. Disengaged from the emotional life of his North Carolina family, Felix has let his wife, Ella, deal with their special-needs son by herself.

A talented jewelry designer turned full-time mother, Ella is the family rock…until her heart attack shatters their carefully structured existence. Now Harry, a gifted teen grappling with the chaos of Tourette’s, confronts a world outside his parents’ control, one that tests his desire for independence.

As Harry searches for his future, and Ella adapts to the limits of her failing health, Felix struggles with his past and present roles. To prevent the family from being ripped apart, they must each bend with the inevitability of change and reinforce the ties that bind.

Seventeen-year-old Harry Fitzwilliam suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, and anxiety. His loving mother, Ella, has dedicated her entire life to his well-being, while his father, Felix, avoids dealing with him by working non-stop. Ella and Felix have accepted their way of life, and while neither is fully satisfied, it works for them. That is, until otherwise health Ella suffers a heart attack and their whole family structure begins to crumble.

At the beginning, it seems that Ella is perfect, a devoted mother who tirelessly manages her son’s medications, therapists, physicians, school activities, and emotions. Felix is supremely unlikable. Even when he’s not working himself to death, he’s criticizing his wife and child. Why can’t Harry be more normal? Why does Ella baby him so much? Why can no one remember to put their shoes away?!? When Ella’s health takes turn after turn for the worse, Felix finds himself absorbing more and more of her tasks, and understanding just what it takes to keep their family running smoothly.

Harry is an impressive character, never letting his conditions get in the way of his life. He has good friends and does well in school. There are, of course, moments when he struggles. When he tries with everything he has to stop ticcing, but he just can’t. When he realizes that his Tourette’s could get him in a lot of trouble. When he struggles with his mother being in the hospital and having to deal with his father. But overall, Harry is a beacon of hope and happiness.

But it’s Felix that really steals the show. He develops so much as a person of the course of the book, coming to love both his wife and his son more as he realizes that Harry isn’t the only one with issues. As Felix delves deeper into his past, he confronts uncomfortable truths about his relationship with his own father, and how that may influence the way he treats his own son.

The Perfect Son is an unexpectedly touching book about family and mental illness, and I would highly recommend it.

I received a free copy of The Perfect Son from Amazon’s Kindle First program.