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England. 1972. Best friends Byron and James, both 11 years old, worry about the two seconds added to time because it is a leap year. While driving on a foggy morning, just as Byron is telling her about the two seconds, his mother, Diana, hits a little girl on a bicycle. The cascade of disasters quietly unleashed by the accident, which Byron blames on the added time, build to an almost unbearable tension, with the situation aggravated by Diana's suffocatingly controlling husband and her attempts to make things right with the little girl's mother. England. 2012. Jim, a former mental patient now in his early fifties, is living in his van while working at a restaurant. Nearly incapacitated by the relentlessly overwhelming rituals of his obsessive-compulsive disorder and a terrible stutter, he is befriended by the woman who accidentally runs over his foot with her car. VERDICT In alternating chapters, these two stories set 40 years apart frame Joyce's exquisitely played novel of tragedy and mental illness and the kind of wrenching courage unique to those who suffer from the latter and yet battle to overcome it. As in her brilliant debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Joyce stuns with her beautifully realized characters and the unexpected convergence of her two tales. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13.]-Beth Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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An 11-year-old boy makes an error that brings tragedy to several lives, including his own, in Joyce's intriguing and suspenseful novel. One summer day in a small English village in 1972, Byron Hemmings's mother, Diana, is driving him and his younger sister to school when their Jaguar hits a little girl on a red bicycle. Diana drives on, unaware, with only Byron having seen the accident. Byron doesn't know whether or not the girl was killed, however, and concocts a plan called "Operation Perfect" to shield his mother from what happened. Previously, she has always presented the picture of domestic perfection in trying to please her martinet banker husband, Seymour, and overcome her lower-class origins. After Byron decides to tell her the truth about the accident, she feverishly attempts to make amends by befriending the injured girl's mother, but her "perfect" facade begins to splinter. Joyce sometimes strains credibility in describing Diana's psychological deterioration, but the novel's fast pacing keeps things tense. Meanwhile, in alternate chapters, Jim, a psychologically fragile man in his 50s, endures a menial cafe job. Joyce, showing the same talent for adroit plot development seen in the bestselling The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, brings both narrative strands together in a shocking, redemptive (albeit weepily sentimental) denouement. The novel is already a bestseller in England. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.