Ron Currie, Jr. – Everything Matters!
Length: 306 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Started: 22 April 2010
Finished: 25 April 2010
Where did it come from? Christmas present from a good friend.
Why do I have it? I think he got the rec from NPR’s list of the five best books to share with your friends.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 21 December 2009.
We’ve got less than a
month until the world ends. What
are you going to do?
Summary: Junior Thibodeau has known, since he was in the womb, exactly how and when the world was going to end: by direct impact with a comet on June 15, 2010, at 3:44 p.m. – roughly thirty-six years after Junior’s birth. Junior has voices in his head that tell him as much, along with other prophetic tidbits of information, much more than any child can or should have to handle. But, despite knowing that he’ll never see his thirty-seventh birthday, Junior goes through life, coping as best he can with his cocaine-addict-turned-pro-ballplayer brother, his overprotective and alcoholic mother, his distant and ill father, and Amy, his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life. Junior is unique, but for all of his skills and knowledge, can he possibly prevent the inevitable? And if he can’t, what difference do any of his other choices make, anyways?
Review: This book started out with two things very much in its favor: a fantastic premise, and an author who is very skilled at crafting dryly funny, slightly bizarre, immediately recognizable characters, situations, and scenes. And yet, in the final analysis, I felt like Everything Matters! came out as less than the sum of its parts. I’m not saying it was bad, by any means. I definitely enjoyed reading it. But I wanted to love it, I should have loved it, and I just didn’t. I finished the book not sure whether I should be weeping or overcome with a serious case of the warmfuzzies, and while I can appreciate that the author may have left things somewhat ambiguous on purpose, it was still strange to come out of a book not only not sure what I should be feeling, but not even sure what I was feeling, other than a bit wrung-out.
I think part of my problem was that the novel never went in the direction I was expecting it to. In fact, it never went in the direction it was setting itself up to go. Like I said, the premise of the novel is fantastic: If you know for certain that the world is going to end, what’s the point of anything? Does anything you do matter, and why? And how? The book’s conclusion is given away in the exclamatory title, but I felt like we never really got to satisfactorily see Junior (or anyone else) wrestle with the issue, and never had a convincing bulk of evidence presented for either the “Everything” or “Nothing” side of the argument. Instead, it felt like the novel’s focus on its postmodern, slightly wacky, multiple POV slice-of-life vignettes kept it from ever fully engaging with the issues it wanted so badly to raise. It’s well-written, and interesting enough in its own right, it’s just not the story I thought I would be getting.
Despite all that, however, I still think this one is worth the read. Everything Matters! is one of those special cases – like Keith Donohue’s The Stolen Child – where the premise is so interesting that I’m willing to overlook the flaws in the handling of the story in favor of the thought-provoking questions that it raises. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Worth reading for the concept, and probably worth reading for the story as well – just don’t expect them to always to match up.
First Line: First, enjoy this time!
Cover Thoughts: I’ve been liking a lot of covers recently, but this one takes the cake. It is Fantastic. I would hang a print of this painting on my wall in a heartbeat. It’s called “Sleeping Separately”, by Amy Bennett. (I honestly didn’t notice the person in the sleeping bag on the lawn until I read the title… but I still love it.) It also fits the book brilliantly. (The Book Design Review agrees with me.)
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 38: “Just me and the raspberry horns and the tourtiere pies and my cigarette going in the ashtray near the back sink.” – a French Canadian, pastry-covered pie containing minced pork or other chopped meat and various chopped vegetables.