At the center of Helen’s vintage orchid brooch is a massive yellow stone, which Beck Miller, her granddaughter, assumes is cubic zirconia. But when Helen dies and leaves it to Beck, she quickly learns that it is likely the Florentine Diamond, formerly owned by the Hapsburgs, one of the world’s great gems lost to history. This startling revelation leads Beck and the rest of the Millers to reevaluate their relationships and everything they thought they knew about their tight-lipped grandmother, the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust.
It is great fun to follow the Millers as they work to determine the history of the diamond and how it came to be in Helen’s possession. They are enjoyably dysfunctional. Years-old conflicts caused by misunderstandings and accidental betrayals follow Ashley, who has married into wealth but struggles to maintain her “perfect housewife” image; Jake, an aimless former screenwriter who keeps attempting but failing to grow up; Beck, a sharp, bitter young paralegal fully aware that she’s not living up to her potential; and their mother, Deborah, who, despite her age, still lives like a guileless child, starting one new age business after another.
Meyerson shifts perspectives from Miller to Miller, sometimes in quick succession, showing how differently members of the same family can perceive events. They initially squabble over who gets the diamond, presumably worth about ten million dollars, and what to do with it. Soon the family drama comes face to face with international mystery, as the public learns of the diamond and everyone from the Italian government to their estranged father makes a claim on it. Readers learn fascinating facts about gemology and the surrounding law, as Meyersen presents a convincing story about what would happen should a long-lost jewel suddenly emerge.
As intriguing as the Florentine is and as entertaining as the Millers’ arguments are, the real magic of The Imperfects comes as the Millers uncover Helen’s tragic past. The details of her escape at age fourteen from Nazi-occupied Vienna are stranger and even sadder than they’d imagined. As the Millers learn to better understand and respect each other, they realize that if they want to know themselves they need to deeply connect with their heritage.
Meyerson has written a delightful romp that blends history, rich characterization, and punchy but compassionate scenes into a page-turning family saga. It is the perfect escape in our perilous times: light enough to be fun and serious enough to make you think. This absorbing novel will keep you reading late into the night and appreciating your own family and their pasts.