Well, we’ve come to the end of our October book. It was a great read, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed sharing it with all of you!
The last few chapters of The Imperfectionists flew by for me, and I think that’s largely due to Rachman’s deft ability to build momentum. The strange and mysterious quality of the stories kept me fully engaged—and for once, I knew that closure and understanding were close at hand.
The final three chapters felt very separate from the others. For the first time, Rachman turned away from the editorial staff and homed in on the financial side of the paper, revealing the most dedicated reader (or customer), the chief financial officer, and—at long last—the publisher. These stories were fascinating on their own, but I was particularly interested in how they served to contextualize the narratives that preceded them. They confirmed a sneaking suspicion that many of us likely harbored along the way: that despite its importance to these characters’ lives, the paper itself is not that important to the world. It had never really been a financial success, nor had it commanded a large readership (25,000 is truly small potatoes in the publishing world). And even its founder, Cyrus Ott, didn’t care much about its integrity: He only founded it to get a girl.
As for the stories themselves, I have to say I was stunned by how creepy things became. Ornella’s dark secret—that her husband actually tried to kill her—was so sad, and the way it debilitated her psyche and her daily existence was even sadder. The last line of Abbey Pinnola’s chapter—with Dave Belling standing at the foot of the bed, demanding to know why he was fired—sent a shiver down my spine. And the lonely life of Oliver Ott (and the murder of his dog) was heartbreaking. In a sense, the dog was a bit like the paper itself—living one minute, lifeless the next. The paper was a reason to leave the house for many of its staff, just as Schopenhauer was to Oliver. How would you interpret Schopenhauer’s significance? And while we’re on the topic of this chapter, did you feel satisfied by how Rachman pulled back the curtain on the Betty/Ott history?
I was relieved that the book didn’t end on the dog’s death, but rather with one more installment of the paper’s history. It was satisfying—and even uplifting—to see how the characters’ lives progressed after the paper. Despite all the darkness, tragedy, and torment of the novel, Rachman gave just about everybody (save for Oliver Ott) a fairly happy ending. His final paragraphs left me feeling content—something that rarely happens when I finish a book. What did you think of the ending? Did you like the way the characters’ stories concluded?
Share your thoughts on the book’s conclusion in the comments. And don’t forget: Tom Rachman will be answering our questions, so please post yours below. Having finished the book, I’d love to ask Rachman: Which character did you think was the most likable? And, why didn’t you ever give “the paper” a name?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!