Utopian communities don’t fare much better in fiction than they do in real life. As the plot usually unfolds, a brave new world loses its luster fast when the failings of its founder are exposed, or when the community itself begins to morph into a cult. Think of Lauren Groff’s Arcadia or Carolyn Parkhurst’s Harmony, two recent novels that have imagined alternative communities and their inevitable crack-up.
How could it be otherwise in fiction? As the Talking Heads told us, “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.” A novel about heaven, about a successful utopia without sin or tension, would be pretty dull, indeed.
Fortunately for us readers, the experimental ideal community that Kevin Wilson brings to life in his second novel, Perfect Little World, has the delicious makings of a mess from its very inception.
Wilson broke out with his 2011 debut novel, The Family Fang, about two married, avant-garde artists who deploy their children as props in their performance pieces. That novel was ingenious — a whirlwind of screwball comedy, art and sad realizations about the limitations of family.