Q&A with author Jonathan Neville on A Perfect Mother


Q: Explain the title, A Perfect Mother. Jane seems far from perfect to me.


A: That's the point, actually. There is no perfect mother in the abstract, just as there are no perfect people, but anyone can be a perfect mother--or father--for her or his children, despite mistakes.


Q: Yes, but Jane is really out there.


A: She may not appear to be your "typical" mom, but put yourself in her shoes and you might surprise yourself. Perfectly normal people do perfectly abnormal things under extreme circumstances. I practiced law long enough to see plenty of examples of that.


Q: So is the book inspirational?


A: I think so. I hope so. Maybe not in the sappy way you see in some books, but I find inspiration in the way ordinary people deal with very challenging events. It's not always pretty, but at the end of the day they survive, they learn, they move forward, and, most importantly, they change. And not only Jane, but the kids, too.


Q: Why Connecticut?


A: Because that's where these events happened.


Q: Isn't it a novel?


A: Yes, but there's nowhere else this could have taken place. Connecticut is a fascinating state on many levels.  You have Waterbury, a metaphor for the decline of manufacturing in America, and you have Greenwich and the other financial centers in the south. Quite a contrast. They used to make things in Waterbury. Now there's a big mall there selling stuff imported from China. The economic base is gone, essentially, and all the wealth comes from the hedge funds in the south or the insurance/financial firms in Hartford.


Q: And The Perfect Mother takes place during the manufacturing phase.


A: Toward the end. The decline is starting already, increasing the tensions in society. People take their frustrations out in various ways, as the characters demonstrate.


Q: The lawyers aren't exactly noble.


A: They usually aren't. It's not an altruistic profession, for the most part. They have bills to pay, and you can't risk your entire career on one case. You have to get along, and that's all they do.


Q: Although his mother is the narrator, Jimmy Madison seems to be the focus. Why?


A: This is the first in a series about James Madison, told from a variety of perspectives. I love book series; it's one reason I prefer John Lescroart to John Grisham. I look forward to the next Lee Child or Michael Connelly because they're going to tell me more about characters I already know. So here I'm introducing James Madison.