The Imperfects

Amy Meyerson's intriguing second novel, The Imperfects, begins with an unnamed, pregnant young woman receiving a secret gift in 1918 Vienna. In present-day Philadelphia, a Holocaust survivor named Helen dies, bequeathing her house to her daughter, Deborah, and her remaining estate to her grandchildren, Ashley, Jake and Beck. Beck also inherits a brooch with a large yellow stone, seemingly a piece of costume jewelry Helen favored.

When Beck gets it appraised, she's startled to learn the yellow stone is the 137.27-carat Florentine Diamond, part of the Austrian crown jewels and missing since 1918. And possibly worth $10 million. The appraisal sets off a chain of events, and Beck promptly receives letters from several parties--including the Italian and Austrian governments--who all claim the diamond belongs to them. The FBI seizes the stone in a civil forfeiture: "If the government knows a property was involved in a crime but doesn't know who committed the crime, they can... hold on to it until the court determines who it rightly belongs to." With that, Helen is called a jewel thief by the media. It's now up to her descendants to prove she didn't steal the diamond and that it rightfully belongs to them.

Meyerson based The Imperfects on events surrounding the real Florentine Diamond, weaving an absorbing version of what happened to fill in the holes historical accounts don't address. Helen's past is a story of love and courage and resilience during the worst of times. In the present, her heirs are dysfunctional and awfully hurtful to one another, but they eventually learn the most valuable treasure is a familial bond. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

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