In Volume 4 of Are You Seth? I discussed what I (then) consider(ed) "the best" novel from 2009, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. However, being an indecisive fellow, if I am completely and totally honest with myself - and you - I cannot so blithely announce a favorite book, when, as Yoda would say, "there is another". If I had not been fortunate enough to read Spivet, then Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr would hands-down, without a doubt, be the best novel I read in 2009. Even as things are, I'm not sure which book is better anyway... I should just shut up.
Imagine that you were born with the absolute, unquestionable knowledge that the world would be destroyed in a fiery comet collision somewhere in the vicinity of your 36th birthday. (Bear with me here.) How would you live your life, knowing that every single thing you do or say or think is either futile or at the very least, more finite than we are comfortable thinking about? Would you use your knowledge to try and save the world? Or just your own family? Would you just try to forget and just drink yourself to death? Or would you just live your life as normally as possible? Does anything you do matter? These are the questions posed to Junior Thibodeau, born with an all-seeing, all-knowing voice inside his head that shares all of its vast knowledge with him, turning him into a lonely, introverted, alcoholic genius who feels that no one really knows him since he cannot share the knowledge he possesses. He peppers his life with poor decisions, all under the ruse that nothing he does in life matters at all, since the outcome is so devastatingly pre-determined. But the one constant in life, he finds, is love, and no amount of destiny can impede that emotional connection to other people in your life.
Currie has taken a highly unusual, potentially disastrous premise and created a completely plausible, emotionally resonant life story around this Junior Thibodeau, born with a unprecendentedly unique prespective on the world. Junior spends most of his 36 years dwelling on the fact that the world will be destroyed - so much so, that he doesn't know how to actually live a life based in the moment. Once he discovers - perhaps too late? - that life is all about living from moment to moment, that unique perspective he had completely changes, even if the fate of the world may not. Thankfully Currie allows his readers to avoid the potential for morbidity and overwhelming depression of such an end-of-the-world story, by writing this tale with substantial humor and grounding Junior in reality by lending his "inside voice" a deep-seeded, genuine bonhomie. Despite his mistakes, I cared a great deal about Junior and those he loved - in spite of the fact that I shared his absolute knowledge that he would certainly go down with the ship when that fateful comet arrived. What can I say, it really hit home with me. It was just one of those books that totally caught me off guard and has stuck with me ever since - I knew from about halfway through that I will read this book over and over and over again throughout my life, always having my own unique perspective on the life of Junior Thibodeau.
***A revision on this "one other note": the second edition of "Coffee with a Bookseller" is (re)scheduled for Tuesday, January 12 at 10:00am. (December is just too busy, hence the resched.) Come on down to the store, have a cuppa joe with me & I'll talk books right to your face!***