Perfect Match, by Jodi Picoult, tells the story of a mother who must choose between protecting her son and allowing the justice system to give an accused man a fair trial. As an assistant district attorney in Maine, Nina Frost prosecutes child molesters for a living. On a daily basis, Nina watches guilty men walk free while their victims are left emotional scars and a therapy-filled future.
Nina Frost and her husband, Caleb, have a five-year-old son named Nathaniel. While her time-consuming and emotionally-demanding job may keep her away from her son, Picoult repeated reassures readers that Nathaniel is the Frosts’ number one priority. When Nathaniel abruptly stops talking, Nina and her husband discover that he has been sexually abused, she immediately goes to what she knows: the legal system.
A physical exam shows that the little boy has been sexually abused. Nina, frustrated that she cannot communicate with her son, teaches him sign language and various hand motions. Initially, Nathaniel identifies his dad as the culprit, with the symbol for “father,” but it later dawns on Nina that her son would never refer to her husband as “father,” but always daddy. All at once, Nina recollects the time her son has spent alone with their parish priest, whom Nathaniel would refer to as Father Glen.
The cleric is arrested immediately, but Nina, who daily sees children burst into tears while being cross-examined, refuses to allow Nathaniel to testify in court. As a desperate mother under great emotional stress, Nina takes justice into her own hands, at great risk to her entire family’s well-being.
Compared to Picoult’s other novels, Perfect Match incorporates even more legal-talk and third-person perspective. My Sister’s Keeper, one of this author’s most famous books, changes perspective and offers insight into each individual character’s emotions. Perfect Match features a few short “inside the mind of Nathaniel” chapters, but most were uninteresting, and added little or no insight into the plot of the book.
Perfect Match perfectly illustrates the trauma sexual abuse against children enacts on the entire family involved. Jodi Picoult shows just how far a mother’s (and father’s) love can go to prevent their children from harm. Picoult explores what crimes should be punished to the full extent of the law and how extenuating circumstances may or may not justify even the worst crimes.