Perry Crandall is a 31-year-old man with an IQ of 76, which is just above the level that defines mental retardation. Perry was raised by his grandmother and grandfather, his own parents having bailed on him for reasons that are never fully explained. Thanks to Gram’s affirming parenting style and deep love for Perry, he grew into an adult capable of living independently, although complex decisions are difficult for him to make on his own. Perry’s life changes permanently when Gram passes away, and shortly afterwards he wins $12M in the lottery.
Perry is innocent and trusting (“suggestible,” Gram would say), so his family easily convinces him to let them sell Gram’s house and keep most of the proceeds. After Perry wins the lottery, he is besieged by his money-grubbing “cousin-brothers” (his mother’s children by another man), and a host of organizations all hoping to benefit from his windfall. Fortunately, Perry has two people who care about him: his boss Gary, and co-worker Keith. Gary provides Perry with an apartment above his store and includes Perry in family gatherings. Keith grows from friend to protector, bringing common sense to situations where Perry lacks experience. Keith uses colorful language, drinks too much, and generally abuses his body; his earthiness is a marked but amusing contrast to Perry’s naiveté.
Perry’s story is told in the first person, and much like the character of Jack in Emma Donoghue’s Room, the narrative voice rang true for me. Seeing the world through Perry’s eyes, but armed with a better knowledge of the real world, I could anticipate his brothers’ shenanigans, and I knew when Perry was misinterpreting people’s actions. And I also felt his ups and downs, his elation and his grief. There were some aspects of the story I wish were better explained, especially some details surrounding Perry’s family. But the real story revolved and Perry and his relationships with Keith, Gary, and a young woman named Cherry, who become more like a family than his brothers could ever be. This book moved beyond a “person with a disability overcomes adversity” story, to a story of love and devotion with a surprising emotional impact.