Eleven-year-old Loah Londonderry lives in a ramshackle house with an “alarmingly crooked turret.” Her classmates regularly dare each other to peek into her house’s windows, and Loah usually responds with a timid wave.
Loah’s mother, an ornithologist, is doing fieldwork in the Arctic, so Loah is being looked after by the Rinkers, a brother and sister who are “old, scrawny, and white as napkins.” Miss Rinker is strict, but her brother, Theo, the purveyor of bedtime gummy bears, is Loah’s favorite.
Loah’s mother has been gone for 67 days (and counting) when their turret-topped home comes to the unwelcome attention of Mr. Wayne J. Kipper, the local housing inspector. Then an accident lands Theo in the hospital just as Loah learns of her mother’s plan to go off the grid and risk a dangerous solo pursuit of the rare bird that is Loah’s namesake. When all seems truly lost, Loah is befriended by a rangy, outspoken homeschooler named Ellis.
The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe is an appealing coming-of-age story with broad emotional range. Author Tricia Springstubb writes with a deft hand, and her moving and complex third-person narration contains frequent humorous asides to the reader.
The novel is set against a lush backdrop of the natural world, full of the calls and movements of the birds that Loah’s mother has devoted her life to studying. Readers will learn about arctic terns, hairy woodpeckers and chickadees, and there’s even a supporting turn at a critical moment by the family of vultures who live in the turret. The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe is a lovely reminder of the importance of paying attention to nature and protecting the creatures that share our world.