Review: Past Perfect Life

Title: Past Perfect Life

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 336

Publication Date: July 9, 2019


Ally Smith has the perfect life. She and her father are insanely close and have a million rituals that make her days feel rich and full. She’s at the top of her class and hoping to get the scholarships she needs to go to college. She’s “in” with the Gleasons, the town royalty, and Neil, her longtime crush, seems like he may be asking her out soon. The only problem is her college applications, which were rejected because of her social security card, but that will be an easy fix, right? Everything is great until the FBI shows up at her house and turns Ally’s world upside down. Turns out, she’s not who she thinks she is and has been a missing person for fifteen years. Now, as her life comes crumbling around her, she longs for her perfect past in the face of an uncertain future.

I really liked this book. The characters were engaging, the plot was well done, and I love a good missing persons story. I like how the narrative was sympathetic to everyone involved. The dad wasn’t a villain, just a thoughtless man who made a terrible decision. The long suffering mother was overbearing, but understandable in her actions. She’d spend 15 years without her daughter and was going overboard to make up for lost time. The only place I was afraid I’d get a cardboard cutout was with the younger sister, but even she was quickly revealed to be a human being in pain and not a one-dimensional stereotype. 

I liked Ally’s support system in Wisconsin. The Gleasons were a close-knit family who’d taken in Ally and her father and were understandably dismayed when the truth was revealed. I liked how they stayed by her side and supported her no matter what. In other books of a similar nature, characters didn’t have that support system and it was always frustrating to see them so lost. Ally gets lost and depressed, but she always has someone to turn to.

I admit, I was a little iffy on the ending. I liked it, but it didn’t quite ring true to me. I think I would have preferred something more realistic and involving therapy for everyone involved. However, the whole book has a little bit of a fairy tale feel to it, so the ending fits that narrative perfectly.

Overall, this is a strong book with good characters. It makes you think about how easily something like this could happen and it makes you feel for all parties involved.

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