The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson is a multi-generational novel that features the dysfunctional family of the Millers and a 137-carat diamond. The matriarch of the family, Helen Miller, leaves the Florentine Diamond, an actual lost diamond, to her youngest granddaughter, Beck. Beck, who is closer to Helen, than her mother, Deborah, decides to split the value of the diamond with her siblings, Jake and Ashley, and Deborah. The story shows the lives of the different Millers as well as Helen’s own family, and how she came to possess the Florentine.
The three Miller grandchildren are realistic and believable with their personal problems and issues with each other. Ashley seems to have a picture-perfect family with an attorney husband and two children but she is facing the consequences of her husband’s decisions. Jake works at a grocery store and dreams of being a successful screenwriter while living with his Chinese-American girlfriend, Kristi Zhang. And because of a decision that Beck took at school, she is the best paralegal, not a lawyer, in her law firm. The children feel that Deborah does not deserve the house that Helen left her because Deborah was an absent mother. There are also reasons why the money from selling the Florentine would be immensely helpful to all the four surviving Millers. The Millers also piece together Helen’s immigration from Austria, the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Helen’s own life in Philadelphia. When the news of the diamond becomes public, there are claims and the Millers start to prove that the diamond belonged to Helen.
Considering the novel, a theme in the two narratives seems to be the secrets that mothers keep to protect their children as well as how daughters often become like their mothers. Another underlying idea is the breakdown of communication between the three generations as well as among the siblings. This leads to fights and arguments instead of cooperation. Ashley realizes that “Maybe the fighting grows out of their limited expectations for each other. If they try to be more generous, if they try to believe in each other, maybe the Millers can be another kind of family, one not quick to anger. One that forgives rather than bear grudges.” Ultimately, the Millers do start to work together, not only for Helen’s sake but also for their own sake, learning to navigate the complexities of being in a family and healing past wounds.
Despite having a historical component, the novel is still contemporary in its portrayal of the characters and their respective lives, past and present. The novel also shows the importance of families while also presenting the faults and mistakes of the members, as Deborah surmises, “‘We’re all assholes sometimes,’ … ‘It’s called being a family.’” Overall, this is an enjoyable read if you like flawed characters, an unexpected ending, and a treasure hunt.
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