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Perfectly Miserable: Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town

By Sarah Payne Stuart

Perfectly Miserable: Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town

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Started reading:
27 July 2014
Finished reading:
2 August 2014

Review

The genius of Perfectly Miserable — apart from its title, which is well-nigh perfect — is that it transforms the legendarily dreary Calvinism that once dominated New England, a philosophy we likely know better from history books than from personal experience, into a genuinely real and possibly malevolent force in contemporary life. Certainly it informs Sarah Payne Stuart’s life; a lesser author might have tried to make this All About Her, a snarky exercise in self-aggrandizement, but it doesn’t happen here, despite multiple opportunities for feigned hilarity. “The secret source of humor,” said Mark Twain, “is not joy, but sorrow.” Twain obviously wasn’t referring to this book, but it supports his premise as strongly as any book I’ve ever read; the saddest moments bring out Stuart at her best.