Penguin Books, 2010
320 pages Fiction
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Junior Thibodeau knows the year he’ll die—the exact month and day, the precise moment of his death (along with the complete destruction of the earth) “thirty-six years, one hundred sixty-eight days, fourteen hours, and twenty-three seconds” from the day he’s born. All this information is given to him while in utero. With that kind of information, a person could view a life without hope—ultimately pretty depressing. It helps that Junior is “the fourth smartest person” who ever lived (but certainly not the wisest). It helps he has these unidentifiable voices to tell him pieces and shadows of the future—some of which he’s able to use to his benefit, but most often not. They’re just a damned nuisance, for the most part.
Initially, Junior immaturely uses the mysterious voices (are they angels, God, aliens?) to his advantage to navigate his youth, but later becomes depressed when his high school sweetheart dumps him because he unwisely tells her of his apocalyptic whispers of the future. Yet these voices are just helpful enough to warn Junior of things such as his older brother Rodney’s addiction to cocaine and his father’s premarital tryst with a Vietnamese prostitute while at war.
Junior’s discouraging future looms, continues to press in on him, and he even considers becoming an accomplice to a domestic terrorist plot (pre 9/11, of course).Without giving too much of the plot away, Junior reunites with many of those he loves and begins to see his future as a pretty scary thing. In other words, he gets his act together…but not fully.
Currie borrows from enough historical happenings of the 20th century to warrant this as a fun and epic period piece of sorts—culling nostalgia from familiar true-life events of the 70s, 80s and 90s. While journeying through the Thibodeau family saga, we experience Vietnam, the space shuttle Challenger disaster, various terrorist acts, and even secret governments plots.
While Junior is a sympathetic character to a degree, Junior’s father is the most sympathetic and often heroic character. He loves in the face of most of life’s challenges, even when those challenges come from his own stupid mistakes. In a sense, he knows his inevitable doom—somewhat better than Junior without the help— but does all that he can to love and care for his troubled and dysfunctional family, albeit imperfectly.
The novel succeeds because Currie delicately balances the looming doom with the hope of love and the joy of life. He shows us that a truly enjoyable life comes from finding ways to live, not avoiding death (and in this case horrible destruction). Yes, life isn’t so bad even when you know that death is close. The book has its ups and down, its slow moments and its absurdities, but ultimately we walk away from the last pages of this book mumbling to ourselves in a deep, philosophical manner that in life “everything matters”—really.
Everything Matters is available on Amazon.
Click here to visit the author’s website.
Reviewed by David Stucki, April 2011