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Perfect Agreement

A Novel

List Price: $15.95

November 10, 2009 | Paperback |  5.5 x 8.2, 208 Pages | ISBN 9781582435381
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"Downing is better at writing about Shakers than Hawthorne or Melville... The feeling for the community and its members ring true." —New York Times Book Review

Mark Sternum, a professor who teaches spelling and grammar at Boston’s McClintock College, is full of droll observations about the rules that govern our language, but he leads a diligent if somewhat detached life. Friends and family try to coax him into deeper involvement, yet he keeps even his lover at arm’s length. He screens all incoming calls, including his eccentric sister’s “word pictures” about the waning days of their comatose mother.

One day, an African-American single mother who has failed the college’s basic skills test for the last time accuses Mark of “prejudgism,” and Mark is fired. Blown off course, he monitors the ensuing academic skirmish from a distance as his case makes national headlines, and turns his attention instead to the graceful rhythms of a small Shaker community. As the scrambled pieces of Mark’s life and the simple ways of the Shakers begin to merge, Mark finds new beauty in his own maddening, blissful dependency on the people in his life.

Funny and generous, Downing’s seemingly effortless prose juxtaposes cunning portraits of academic functionaries weathering the age of political correctness with the people and values of the last Shaker families in America.

MICHAEL DOWNING is the author of six books, including the novel Breakfast with Scot, which was adapted into a film. He teaches creative writing at Tufts University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


“Downing is better at writing about Shakers than Hawthorne or Melville… The feeling for the community and its members ring true.” —New York Times Book Review

Perfect Agreement is as artfully and solidly constructed as a Shaker table… Exquisite.” —Newsday

“Downing has filled his novel with so much intelligence and beauty that it can modify your life, like a loved one. And in the realm of art, it doesn’t get any more perfect than that.” —Washington Post Book World

“A novel of compassion and wit… Downing combines one man’s tale of loss and acceptance, the lost rhythms of the Shaker world, and the delights of the English language.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review


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