, August 06, 2009
(view all comments by grendel)
Despite its grim subject matter--the unavoidable End of The World--"Everything Matters" is one of the most beautiful novels you will ever read, with a protagonist you will never forget.
Junior Thibodeau has been hearing voices literally all his life...they begin even before that, in utero--and while the voices are friendly, even supportive, they deliver the mind-shattering information that on a very specific date in 2010 the Earth will be struck by a giant meteor and all life on the planet will be wiped out. Junior isn't crazy, and neither are the voices in his head. They predict and tell him secrets about other people from his family and friends to complete strangers...all of which prove to be true, and so Junior is plagued by the certainty of this outcome, and with it the ultimate existential question: Does anything I do in this life matter at all?
The answer comes in how he handles his relationships with those closest to him: with his father, a strong but all-too-silent mountain of a man who only finds solace when he's working long hours at a bakery; his older brother Rodney, damaged by a cocaine addiction before reaching his 10th birthday, who nevertheless retains his innate athletic ability and becomes a man-child baseball star with the Chicago Cubs; and Amy, Junior's grade-school sweetheart and love of his life...who withdraws from Junior when he tries to explain to her his awful secret but later returns to his life in a bizarre sequence of events that are connected to the coming apocalypse.
There is black humor liberally laced throughout this book to alleviate the looming doomsday scenario. There's even a chance element introduced that Junior--while unable to save the planet--can possibly keep the human race from extinction. And there is a wild cast of supporting characters that includes a wheelchair-bound drug addict who tries to enlist Junior's help in blowing up a Social Security building in Chicago, and a stern, hard-as-nails government agent who knows Junior is right about the world ending and imprisons him to prevent the news from being leaked to the public.
Currie tells the tale using alternating first-person perspectives from the different characters, and each has a distinctive, compelling voice that moves the plot along briskly. Best of all are the scenes in which the reader gets to hear the voices that speak directly to Junior, and try to help steer him towards making the right decision, even as Junior asks aloud whether it matters. The voices (which speak in a collective "we") function like a caring but wry and sometimes sarcastic parent-figure, expressing admiration, disappointment, and ultimately understanding for the hero they know they have burdened with horrible knowledge.
The final pages of "Everything Matters" are among the most emotionally stunning and moving you will ever encounter. They speak to truths about our collective humanity that can, and should, offer saving graces for the mortality we all face, but too often fail to recognize.