After falling into the trap of addiction and nearly destroying her life, Cleo Alyssum is now only a few months away from regaining custody of her beloved seven-year-old son Matty. Cleo has rebuilt her life and she is not going to let anything derail her plans. Despite being the owner of a local hardware store, Cleo has become virtually a recluse, with "keep out" signs and alarms that maintain her privacy.

Cartoonist Jared McCloud needs to find a quiet place where he can work on his screenplay. Hollywood is calling, but the deadline is fast approaching. After learning about the beach cottage on Cleo's property, Jared attempts to rent it from her. When he is injured due to a prank carried out by young Gene Watkins, Cleo caves and allows Jared to stay.

Gene and his younger sister Kismet live on the fringes of society, as their drug-addicted mother frequently loses control. Cleo has done her best to help Gene and Kismet, but she fears any involvement that might compromise her own delicate situation. Jared's arrival means that none of them can hide anymore, but will this be a positive or a negative development?

Cleo is a troubled character whose path to redemption is both gripping and moving. ALMOST PERFECT works as both a love story and a story of personal growth. (Mar., 368 pp., $6.99)

Reviewed by: 
Jill M. Smith