Overview

Awards:

  • National Bestseller
  • Selected as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Amazon.com
  • Selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by Newsday

The story of Perfect Agreement
This is, I hope, a story about how we learn to love our lives. It is a comic novel about a man who wishes his lover, friends, and families would behave according to the reliable rules of grammar, instead of acting like exceptions.

Mark Sternum, the narrator, teaches grammar and spelling at Boston’s McClintock College—“An odd job for a college professor,” he is told, “but no one else seems to be doing it.” When he flunks an African-American student on the college’s basic skills test, she accuses him of “prejudism” and he is fired—and his case makes national headlines.

In the midst of this mess, his lover decides to move out of town, an anonymous supporter emails him daily advice, and his father, a photographer famous for his pictures of the Shaker communities that once thrived in America, turns up for a visit—most surprising, as Mark had long believed his father was dead.

Mark’s father wheedles his way into his son’s life with stories of a nineteenth-century Shaker woman, Sister Celia, and her encounters with the Negro Jesus. And he wakes up something in Mark—a longing to escape the solitude of certainty. Mark is reluctantly drawn into the maddening joy of engagement, the peculiar but enduring compensations of work, friendship, and genuine community.