When you imagine perfect days, what do you have in mind? Maybe a distant tropical land, sitting on a beach with blue waves lapping at your feet. Or a quiet weekend tucked up in a cheery cabin with a pile of books, a roaring fire, and snow falling lightly outside. A road trip with your friends. A hike with your dog. Whatever you’re imagining, it is not what this book contains.
You’ve been warned.
Perfect Days follows mild-mannered medical student Teo who is thoroughly engrossed by his work and spends the rest of his time caring for his mother who is restricted to a wheelchair. Seems like a great guy, no? He's attentive, well-spoken, and about to dedicate his life to helping others. I beg you—just read the first three paragraphs of this book. You’ll not only be forcibly drawn in to read the rest, but those first few moments reveal so much about the internal workings of Teo’s mind—it chills me (in such a good way) just thinking about it!
Teo doesn't seem to feel much, but his quiet demeanor has allowed him to blend in and pass as normal. I'm pretty sure he'd be classified as a sociopath, but without knowing about his background it's a bit difficult to technically diagnose him. Not that this is a bad thing—I love that as readers we are riding around in Teo's disturbed mind, but at the same time, it's as if we know nothing about him. All we really see is him reacting to what happens, formulating short term plans that honestly seem harebrained at times. What makes him tick? Where is he going next? What is he really thinking and what is just a ploy? I can't tell if he has some overarching plan or if he just does things as they occur to him, though I lean towards the latter, which makes him even more crazy because his snap decisions never seem to show on the surface. He is so calm all the time—no matter what the situation, I bet his heart rate never goes above 60 beats per minute.
Teo becomes infatuated with a girl he meets at a party, Clarice, and follows her around—innocuously, of course—to learn more about her. She's more savvy than he realizes though, and confronts him about the stalking. He begs her to give him a chance and tries to explain away his deception, but she refuses him—she's leaving on a trip anyway to spend some time alone to work on her screenplay, so it isn't good timing. Tension rises, tempers flare, and Clarice winds up sedated and packed in her own suitcase, Teo calmly wheeling her away from her house.
And it only escalates from there.
I don't want to give away any more of the plot, so I'm going to try to only focus on the characters from here on out. I hope I've said enough to send you to the bookstore already, honestly, this is the best thriller I've read in a long while. A horror novel with a pink cover: what more could you ask for?
This book will creep up on you and deliver with fast-paced, sadistic enthusiasm. Just when you think you've figured out where the story is going, the paradigm between the characters will shift, or some new element will be introduced. The main story is formatted as a love story, albeit a perversion of a love story, between Clarice and Teo. The whole time they are together I was left wondering, does he actually care for her? Does he actually want her to love him?
I think there is a point at which Teo realizes that it isn't Clarice that he loves, but rather the control that he has over her. The fact that she is so completely at his mercy but at the same time, he doesn't know what is going on in her head or what exactly she is feeling about him is intriguing. People have always been boring to him before now, he's been able to see through them to view their weaknesses and desires, but there's something different about Clarice for Teo. It excites him that he knows he can restrict her physical movement but he can't control her mind or know what she's thinking. Even more exciting is the prospect that someday, through some means, he might. What he'll do when he achieves that is anyone's guess—or perhaps you'll have to read the book to find out! Once the mouse stops twitching and bleeding, doesn't the cat get bored of its toy and just walk away? Just something to keep in mind. But perhaps Teo is different.
And on the other hand, we shouldn't be so quick to judge Clarice—she is different too. We don't get inside her head like we get inside Teo's but the moments that we spend with her really surprised me. She's not your average female victim. She tries different tactics and will keep you guessing as to her actual intent towards Teo, herself, and the situation in general. Clarice doesn't fall into the stereotypical captive role very often during this book and even when she does, you might find yourself second guessing her intentions. Don't turn your back on her.
I won’t give away the ending, but suffice to say that I’d be interested to see where this story could go next.
Perfect Days is a great book for your next road trip or vacation. Read it while you're waiting for your flight at the airport. It'll make you look twice at all the suitcases being wheeled by. Why does that mild-looking guy have such a large pink suitcase?
This is Brazilian author Raphael Montes's third novel, and he's only 25. I can only hope they hurry up and translate the other two soon!
Get your copy of Perfect Days
Find out more about the author, Raphael Montes
Website (his website is in Portuguese)
Facebook (also in Portuguese)
Find out more about the publisher, Penguin Press (Penguin Random House)
I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon my own book journey, as there were some strong coincidences between this book and the previous book that I read, Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear. Now, the books themselves couldn't be more dissimilar: Novey’s is literary fiction, Montes’s is a thriller/horror novel. The plots, characters, and writing styles are all wildly different, and yet there are strong similarities that kept striking me. Is it just because I read them back to back that I kept seeing these coincidences? Maybe. Perhaps you’d be a better judge.
First, both books are set in Brazil, with parts specifically set in Rio de Janeiro. Ok, that’s not so uncanny, you say. It gets better. Both books have suitcases on the covers and feature suitcases in the text. The main character in Novey’s book, Emma, is an English translator of a Brazilian author, and Perfect Days is the English translation of a Brazilian author’s book. Further to juxtapose the translation point, Montes’s main female character’s name is Clarice, named for novelist Clarice Lispector. And here’s the kicker: Novey is a translator along with being a novelist and has translated Clarice Lispector’s work. Weird right? Perhaps just one of those strange coincidences, but I thought it was worth mentioning… I’ve been wanting to dig into The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector that was put out last year, and perhaps the universe is telling me to read those next.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.