I hope you all enjoyed the third installment of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists. I definitely did. It’s become difficult to stop myself from reading ahead. With each chapter, I become more enamored of Rachman’s writing style—and even more curious about how this will all turn out.
To start, I want to share some exciting news: Tom Rachman has agreed to answer our questions when we’re finished with the book. So start thinking about yours. Personally, I would love to know how he devised the order of the stories. Was the book always in this sequence, or did he move the chapters around?
The stories are definitely getting darker, with the tragic Ruby Zaga setting the standard. Rachman’s depiction of her life was subtle and heartbreaking. I loved how he conveyed Ruby’s stream of consciousness, putting quotations around the words that she utters out loud. You feel terrible for her—for her clear love of people, her loneliness and the world’s failure to notice—and yet you also understand the reason that so many on the staff dislike her. She is the girl who mutters under her breath, constantly calling others names. She appears to see each moment of the day as an opportunity to gripe. Yet at the end of her story, after her excruciating New Year’s, Rachman leaves us with a feeling of hope for her. She has suddenly become grateful for her job and her city. As she flushes her cell phone down the toilet, it seems like she just might turn over a new leaf. Did you feel hopeful for Ruby Zaga? Did you find her story to be the saddest so far?
Compared to Ruby’s story, the other two chapters—on Cairo stringer Winston Cheung and news editor Craig Menzies—felt light to me. I thought it was interesting that Rachman never really revealed the true identity of the Cairo stringer. He calls Winston the stringer in the chapter title, but as the story progresses, Winston’s likelihood of actually getting the job decreases. Is Rachman trying to show us how defining and influential even a fleeting experience or job can be? At the very least, he is mocking Kathleen and the paper itself. She had been so obsessed with the idea of getting a stringer in Cairo, and when it finally happens, it’s a choice between an inexperienced, timid boy and a crazy guy who doesn’t speak Arabic. Their contributions to the paper will be negligible—even negative.
Over the past week, we also saw where the Ott narrative is headed. I didn’t anticipate that the history would jump to the present so quickly, or even at all. But now some names in the main narrative—Lloyd Burko and Herman Cohen—have appeared in the flashback narrative. It’s a sign that we’re nearing the end, and, I believe, that we’ll see some resolution in these characters’ stories. I love the history narrative because it shows you just how connected we are to the past. Surely no one in the newsroom—not even Herman Cohen—sits around meditating about the people who came before him. And yet it wasn’t that long ago that this paper was just an idea. Does the Ott narrative enhance the main story for you? Now that we’re nearing the end, how would you describe its purpose?
Share your thoughts below, and have a lovely weekend!