Everything Matters!

Everything Matters!

by Ron Currie

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Overview

"Startlingly talented . . . he survives the inevitable, apt comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and writes in a tenderly mordant voice all his own." -Janet Maslin, The New York Times

In this novel rich in character, Junior Thibodeau grows up in rural Maine in a time of Atari, baseball cards, pop Catholicism, and cocaine. He also knows something no one else knows-neither his exalted parents, nor his baseball-savant brother, nor the love of his life (she doesn't believe him anyway): The world will end when he is thirty-six. While Junior searches for meaning in a doomed world, his loved ones tell an all-American family saga of fathers and sons, blinding romance, lost love, and reconciliation-culminating in one final triumph that reconfigures the universe. A tour de force of storytelling, Everything Matters! is a genre-bending potpourri of alternative history, sci-fi, and the great American tale in the tradition of John Irving and Margaret Atwood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143117513
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/27/2010
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 447,825
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ron Currie is the author of the novels Everything Matters!Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, and The One-Eyed Man, and the story collection God Is Dead, which was the winner of the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. Currie received the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His books have been translated into fifteen languages. He lives in Portland, Maine.

Read an Excerpt

In Utero; Infancy

97 First, enjoy this time! Never again will you bear so little responsibilityfor your own survival. Soon you will have to take in food and disposeof your own waste, learn the difference between night and day and acquirethe skill of sleeping. You will need to strengthen the muscles necessaryto sustain high–volume keening for long intervals. You will haveto master the involuntary coos and facial twitches which are the foundationof infantile cuteness, to ensure that those charged with caringfor you continue to provide food and clean linen. You will need to flexyour arms and legs, loll your head to strengthen the neck, crawl, staggerto your feet, then walk. Soon after you must learn to run, share,swing a bat and hold a pencil, love, weep, read, tie your shoelaces, bathe,and die. There is much to learn and do, and little time; suffice it to saythat you should be aware of the trials ahead so that you may appreciatethe effortless liquid dream of gestation while it occurs, rather thanonly in hindsight. For now, all you need to do is grow.

There is one significant exception to this. You may have noticed thatyou share the womb with other objects. The most obvious and importantof these is the fleshy tether attached to your abdomen, known asthe umbilical cord. It is, quite literally, your lifeline, providing blood,nutrients, and vital antibodies, among other things. Already it haswrapped twice around your neck, and while this may not seem to you,who does not yet breathe, to be particularly dangerous or untoward, itcan imperil your entry into the world. We will not lie—it could killyou. Now, be calm. You should remain as still as possible throughoutthe rest of your gestation. While this will do nothing about the entanglementsalready constricting your neck, it will go a long way towardpreventing further looping or other complications—vasa previa, knots,cysts, hematoma. Any of these problems, by itself, is not particularlydangerous, but two or more occurring together can be big trouble, soyou should maintain perpetual vigilance against the many temptationsto move. Of course, there are some who would argue that it is unfairto ask a fetus to exercise impulse control. You, however, would do wellto avoid those who complain about life's unfairness, and instead get ahead start on building self–restraint.

Light and noise present the toughest challenge to your resolve toremain still. They come to you through your mother's abdomen, andyou feel an impetus to move toward them, to stir the viscous bath ofamniotic fluid with tiny fingers and toes in an effort to absorb thewarmth of sunlight, or hear Carly Simon trill. The urge to move isnatural and understandable. As will be the case throughout your life,no matter how long or brief, the choice is, in the end, yours. Simplybear in mind that most every choice will have consequences, and in thisinstance those consequences would likely be quite grave.

96 Your mother has one other child, your brother, who was a tornado inutero, so your lack of movement causes her alarm. We should mentionthat she is prone to unreasonable anxiety and nervous tension, minordisorders that have several underlying causes, not the least of which isthe verbal and physical abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of herfather. This is why she pokes at you and spends hours with a transistorradio pressed against her belly, trying to bait you into moving. Despitethe fact that her abdomen continues to grow, she wakes one night convincedyou'll be born an ashen husk, your fingers hooked forever intolifeless little claws. With this image lodged in her mind's eye she weeps,her hands laced together in a protective hugging posture under theswell of her belly. Now, a boy's aversion to upsetting his mother isamong the more primal and tenacious instincts, and so you suffer analmost irresistibly powerful urge to kick and twirl, to give unmistakableevidence of your life, to turn your mother's sobs to relieved andslightly embarrassed little hiccups of laughter. Do not yield to this instinct,or you will put your life at risk. Protecting yourself now meansyou'll have many years ahead with which to repay her grief. Besides,you can rest assured that this is not the last time you will make yourmother cry.

Eventually your father's hands, along with two unscheduled visitsto the obstetrician for ultrasound and fetal monitor, soothe your mother's fears to a level she finds tolerable, and she wraps the transistor inits power cord and returns it to the closet, and stops staring for longsilent hours at the television.

95 Although the biological goal of sex was achieved with conception, yourfather still has a hefty sexual appetite (as does your mother, thoughout of concern for you she will not admit it). To you his advances areterrifying. You hear him seeking entry with his tongue and other partsof his body, and your instinct is to recoil, which is perfectly normal—the perception of one's father as an omnipotent predator of great physicalstrength serves a vital function for most boys, and usually persistswell into adulthood, though paradoxically it does not seem to precludethe desperate striving after his love and approval. You try to hold fast,but a stronger, more immediate impulse toward self–preservation takeshold, and you kick against the uterine wall, pushing away from thesniffing and growling at the entrance to your home, and as you driftslowly up the umbilical cord draws tighter around your throat, and aknot forms. Your mother, feeling you stir for the first time in twomonths, smiles and invites your father in, prodding him with the heelsof her feet. They have sex, a rough pulsing in your warm world likethe addition of a third heartbeat, and in that moment when you hearyour mother moan you gain the knowledge of betrayal, what it meansbut also how it feels, and though it of course does not feel good youshouldn't be discouraged; we can tell you that no matter how long youlive, no matter how mature or philosophical you may grow to be, almostall sudden enlightenment will feel precisely this way, like a bootin the stomach, like acid on your tongue, and the sooner you accept thisthe better off you'll be. In fact, you should be glad—at your age, to haveunderstood and assimilated an abstract yet acutely painful concept suchas betrayal is, in a word, prodigious. It indicates you have a better thanaverage chance to succeed at the task for which you have been chosen.

94 Now the danger to you is quite grave. With the development of a knot,the umbilical cord will not tolerate any more tension. You must stayput. Having felt you move, from here on your mother will find everyexcuse to have sex, and you will have to suffer in absolute stillness.Your life depends on it.

93 Still, when she isn't locked in sexual contortions your mother is thesafest, most comfortable home you can imagine. And since the likelihoodthat she will be the only home you'll ever know has increasedexponentially, you should make an effort, when not cowering fromyour father's incursions, to enjoy every moment here.

92 One small, positive development in all this burgeoning trouble is youare nearing the end of gestation, and due to a precisely timed infusionof hormones you want to move around less as you approach your birth.Slowly you roll one last time, until you are fully inverted and in positionto emerge from the womb. As a bonus, your father begins to findyour mother less and less sexually appealing. It's not your mother'ssize that repulses him, but rather her distended navel, which juts everlonger from her belly like a severed finger regenerating itself. He triesnot to look at it but inevitably can't help himself, and when the waveof disgust comes over him he feels ashamed and emasculated all at once,though of course he would not admit this even if he could. Thusyou are left in peace to gather your strength, every ounce of which youwill need, especially since, as we'd feared, the obstetrician did not detectthe knot in your umbilical cord. Had the knot been noticed, he almostcertainly would have opted for a cesarean delivery, therebyreducing the danger to both you and your mother. As it stands, with avaginal delivery planned, things are likely to be hard, protracted, andquite dangerous.

91 Soon the day comes. Your mother knows in the morning; she has sleptfitfully, and as she rises and waddles to the bathroom she feels themilder contractions begin like seismic tremors in the small of her back.You know, too. You sense the swish and shift and though you can't haveany idea yet what it means, you're still not sure that you like it. Forone thing, your mother begins, by and by, to scream, and you're certainyou don't like that, trapped as you are inside the amphitheater ofher belly. For another, the shift portion of the swish and shift causesyour umbilical cord to draw even tighter, spurring your first experiencewith physical pain. Your mother's screams rise an octave, and the warmfluid in which you have spent your entire life flushes away, replacedby slick undulating walls equal to the fluid in warmth but hard, insistent,pressing from all sides, pushing you down, down, inexorably downand out of your home forever, and now you are certain you don't likethis at all because no one likes change unless it is from something badto something good, and besides the umbilical knot and loops have cutthe flow of blood both from your placenta and to your brain, bad troubleindeed. Your heart slows, and the pinprick of consciousness growshazy, fading from red to pink to gray. Something's wrong, your motherwails to the doctor and nurses. They ignore her; they are the experts,after all, they have done this a thousand times, and your mother is inpain and exhausted and probably not thinking right and should leaveit to them. Your father tries to quiet her with a kiss, his lips and anyreal comfort they might offer trapped behind the minutely porous shellof a surgical mask. The delivery team goes on ignoring your mother'spleas until the image of you, stillborn, stiff and blue and twisted, returnsto her, and she screams at them loud and long enough to be heardtwo floors down, in Oncology. At the same moment the fetal heartmonitor sounds a frantic alarm, and its display of your pulse—dangerouslylow and still dropping—begins to flash. There is a great and suddenhustle. Hypodermic shots are administered; trays of gleaming steelinstruments are deployed. By the time they pull you, purplish and limp,through the new orifice in your mother's abdomen, you are unconscious.

Your expression—eyes closed but not clenched, face perfectlyrelaxed, tiny mouth agape—is one of perfect neutrality. This is the expressionyou should wear for all your life, no matter how long or briefit is, so that no one, not even you, will ever know whether you are inecstasy or anguish.

The doctor and nurses place you on a tiny table nearby and set towork, pressing with fingertips on your chest, suctioning your nose andmouth, and eventually they succeed in reviving you. You're moved toa protective plastic box and tethered to life by tubes, wires, adhesivesboth high– and low–tech, hollow needles the diameter of a strand ofyour father's hair. Despite the harsh lights and the stinging prick of theneedles, this new home is not so unlike the old one. You are swaddledin piles of soft blankets, connected and held fast by the tubes and wires.

For a few days your situation is what's called "touch and go." Your parentsreceive a quick overview, complete with pamphlets and sympatheticembraces, of the myriad developmental problems that may cropup but are by no means, it is repeated time and again, a foregone conclusion.For now, let them worry about these things; they are the adults,your shepherds, and as adults it is their responsibility to suffer theknowledge of threats they neither understand nor can do a thing about.You have but one job, comparatively simple: surviving.

90 And it seems, eventually, that you will do just that. Your body temperatureand blood pressure rise, your heart rate stabilizes, and yourlungs begin to inflate on their own. Soon, to your dismay, the tubesand wires are removed, one by one, and you are taken from the incubator,forced once again to relinquish the safety of your cocoon, thoughyou are allowed, as a small consolation, to keep the blankets. Do not beupset. These are all signs that the danger has passed, that your life hasbegun in earnest—you've become a person, fully formed, autonomousand self–sustaining.

89 And with this happy occasion comes the task we spoke of earlier, a lifelongproposition which is likely to seem a burden to you, but which weencourage you to try to think of as a privilege, a great honor. First,though, you need to understand this truth:

Although to you we may seem quite knowledgeable, even omniscient,we in fact know only one thing for certain, which is this: thirty–six years,one hundred sixty–eight days, fourteen hours, and twenty–three secondsfrom now, on June 15, 2010, at 3:44 p.m. EST, a comet that has brokenaway from the Kuiper Belt near Neptune will impact the Earth with theexplosive energy of 283,824,000 Hiroshima bombs.

That's it. We don't know anything else. For example, we have no ideaif you will live long enough to witness this phenomenon. There arethings we can surmise, though, one being that if you are still alive whenthe comet hits, neither you nor anything else on the planet will be afterward.All of which raises the question—your task, burden, privilege,call it what you like—a question which men and women, great andnot–so, of every color, creed, and sexual persuasion have asked sincethey first had the language to do so, and probably before:

Does Anything I Do Matter?

It is our hope that, with knowledge of the epic disaster to come andthe advantage of our continued assistance, you will have greater successat answering this question than those who have come before you.And we wish you much good luck.

What People are Saying About This

Jim Shepard

"Everything Matters! is staggeringly ambitious: it renders with both wit and sorrowful insight just how resourceful and patient disaster can be. It serves up the devastating and redeeming news of our helplessness in the face of love. It's both implacable in its design and generous in its willingness to grant its protagonists the second chances the rest of us are denied in life. And in doing all of that, it reminds us that when it comes to certain categories, nothing is irreparable, and nothing unforgivable."--(Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway and Love and Hydrogen)

David Benioff

"The Apocalypse is old news, but no one since St. John the Divine has written with such power and verve about the End of the World-- and Currie's book is far more full of love and compassion than John could muster. If you're going to write about Doom you'd better be funny and if you're going to write about Global Doom you'd better be damn funny. Currie accomplishes one of the rarest feats in literature-- he makes you dread turning each page at the same time you can't help turning each page. He leads you toward The End with wisdom and honesty, pointing out the beautiful sights along the way but never shielding your eyes from the fires ahead."--(David Benioff, author of City of Thieves and The 25th Hour)

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Most people experience a sense of existential dread at some point in their lives, a vague and often unarticulated anxiety about the purpose of struggle in the face of inevitable death. But for Junior Thibodeau, the protagonist of Everything Matters!, that dread is anything but vague; and it is fully articulated from the moment he is born. Junior is gifted and cursed with the certain knowledge of how and when the world will end, and that knowledge forces him to directly confront the great philosophical questions that have always been the abstract, if profoundly important, preoccupations of the human mind. What is morality? What is love? Does anything I do matter?

Author Ron Currie, Jr. seamlessly blends science fiction with domestic drama. Junior’s unique dilemma is set against a small New England town and a family with a legacy of alcoholism and abuse. The narrative switches perspectives, from Junior’s family members and his lifelong love, Amy, to Junior himself, to the omniscient and unexplained voice in Junior’s brain. We learn that the Thibodeau clan is resilient and loving despite each member’s individual trauma or grief, and though that love is expressed torturously or not at all, it is strong enough to push the adult Junior to incredible heights of self-sacrifice and moral reckoning.

Currie employs literary devices not usually found in the same book: multiple narrators and dual endings; international espionage; and a sense of suspense that builds throughout the book despite a certain and inevitable conclusion announced in the first chapter. The nature and function of important characters switch unexpectedly, often as the result of an eruption of the violence that is always hovering around the edges of their lives. But perhaps the most surprising contradiction in this novel is that in grappling with the futility of existence and the certainty of death, Junior ultimately finds that despite all logic, everything—love, grief, joy, pain, and the most mundane activities—does, in fact, matter.


ABOUT RON CURRIE, JR.
Ron Currie, Jr.’s first book, God Is Dead, won the Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York Public Library and the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Everything Matters! will be translated into a dozen languages, and is a July 2009 Indie Next Pick and Amazon Best of June 2009 selection.

He lives in Waterville, Maine.

A CONVERSATION WITH RON CURRIE, JR.

Q. Who or what is the “voice” in Junior’s head? Did you ever want to reveal its identity, or did you always plan to leave that question unanswered?

I deliberately left the question open. It never seemed a good idea for a reveal—the story is busy enough, and to assign a name to the presence in Junior’s head would compromise its power as metaphor. Plus I like leaving big things up to the reader to decide for him- or herself. Too much of what I read lately panders and handholds, and as a consequence I think some readers have become conditioned to want to have every last detail of a story explained ad nauseam. There’s real, sublime pleasure in being allowed to filter a story through your own consciousness and fill in key blanks for yourself.

Q. How did the idea for this novel originally come to you?

Enough time has passed since I wrote the first few chapters and set it aside to write God Is Dead—six or seven years—that it’s awfully hard to say. I do know that originally the concept was for a sort of instruction manual written in the second person. The idea was to ape the style and format of old books of etiquette. But that was a horrible idea, turns out. Imagine having to slog through three or four hundred pages of nothing but that. The conceit would fall completely apart. So I knew I wanted to salvage the original approach, but there had to be another way to relate the story of these peoples’ lives that was more emotionally immediate. This was when I decided to write from alternating points of view in the first person.

Q. Did you ever write or imagine a draft in which Junior actually succeeds in stopping the Destroyer of Worlds, actually saving the world?

I considered it, of course, but that would have been a cop-out. The whole point is that Junior needs to learn to accept and live with the eventual end of his life and everything he loves. Further, he needs to learn that no amount of struggling against that eventual doom will result in a different outcome, except that when it comes he’ll be alone and spent and heartbroken. Really Junior is sort of immature in his obsession with the Destroyer of Worlds, because the only difference between him and everyone else on the planet—each of whom comes to understand at some point in their life that we’re all hurtling inexorably toward oblivion—is that he knows his expiration date. And it cripples him. Most of us move forward in the face of our own certain knowledge, frightening and discouraging as it is.

Q. There is a strain of violence throughout the book: children suffer physical abuse, adults are mutilated, graphically described illness strikes people of all ages. What is the function of violence in this story?

The same function it has in real life—it’s a tremendous force that results in dramatic changes in both a person’s life and personality. Violence is partly responsible for turning John Sr. into the unflappable family man he is throughout the story. The memory of violence causes Debbie to descend into alcoholism so deeply that it resembles catatonia. Violence committed against Amy grants her the defiance and determination that are the hallmarks of her makeup, particularly when she’s faced with difficult choices or hardship.

Q. Considering the nature of your characters’ dilemmas, they seem surprisingly uninterested in religion. And your last book was titled God Is Dead. Why no mention of religion here?

Well, Debbie is devout, even at the apex of her addiction. I think the other characters’ lack of faith and piety reflect the sort of casually theistic society America seems to have become (shrill right-wingers notwithstanding; they’re still a minority, no matter how vocal). Most people I know sort of believe in god, but god as an indefinite concept, perhaps not even an entity, and certainly not a bearded man in the sky. A society in which one can choose a religion by flipping through the yellow pages is bound to spawn these types of people in large numbers, and the book reflects that.

Q. There are a number of references in your book to 1980s pop culture. Do you think the touchstones of that era have a special relevance to this story and the timeless questions it asks?

I’m not sure about a special relevance. Certainly because the childhood of the main character occurs during the 80’s, it makes sense that we’d see things like cocaine and Spuds MacKenzie popping up here and there. The eighties spared no one, after all, not even Bob Dylan. More than the popular culture, though, I think the dark underside of the go-go eighties, of Reagan’s America, where huge swathes of people (including the Thibodeaus) were left behind financially while a small segment of the population was getting grotesquely wealthy—that certainly has a special relevance to the story.

Q. Certain events of the 80s and 90s—the Challenger explosion, the Oklahoma City bombing—are important turning points in Junior’s young life. Did these particular events affect you in a profound way?

Oh, sure. I was preternaturally sensitive to the big events of my childhood, though I had no better understanding of them than the average kid, I don’t think. I can remember planning a fort in the woods with a friend of mine for when the Libyans invaded circa 1986. This was around the time of the pissing match between Reagan and Gaddafi (remember how no one could reach a consensus on how to spell his name?) over international waters off the Libyan coast. So there we were, convinced the Libyans were going to invade the United States, going over plans on the playground for a sort of fallback shelter in the woods. There was a Rambo knife involved, too, if memory serves.

Q. Junior’s brother Rodney transforms from a “smart, and cunning, and mischievous” nemesis to a simple and guileless friend. His ignorant bliss contrasts sharply with Junior’s tortured brilliance. Why did you choose these dichotomies in creating Rodney’s character and portraying his relationship with Junior?

Rodney functions as Junior’s foil throughout their lives. First, he’s the typical older brother—bullying, jealous of the divided attentions of their mother. After the brain injury, Rodney’s happiness and serenity, when contrasted with Junior’s desperate unhappiness, serve as an omnipresent reminder that, as Junior himself says, “Smart’s got nothing to do with it.”

Q. The style of punctuation changes with the narrator throughout the book—sometimes quotation marks are used in the dialogue, sometimes paragraph breaks, and sometimes nothing at all. Was that something you decided on when you began writing the novel? Why?

It’s a simple and effective way to convey voice. Also pretty dangerous, but I like taking chances. That’s the sort of fiction I enjoy reading: the kind of writing that isn’t afraid to crash and burn. All these quiet, austere, studiously perfect narratives I see celebrated time and again—they’re fine for what they are, but I don’t get a sense that even the authors felt they were necessary. There’s no risk, no anima.

Q. We only hear from Debbie, Junior’s mother, in the first half of the book, after which her alcoholism and depression are chronicled by those around her. Why does she fall silent?

After a certain point early in the story, Debbie has no inner monologue that would make sense on the page, let alone move the story forward. She is way beyond an unreliable narrator. She’s in a sort of stasis, and so in order for the reader to understand what’s going on with her he has to be informed through others. By the time Debbie is well enough to speak for herself again, that part of the story is over.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • When the end of the world is announced (in the first version of Junior’s life), some people decide to stay on their doomed planet instead of heading to another; some stick their heads in the sand and refuse to accept this new reality; some, like Junior, pragmatically plan their departures. What do you think you would do?
  • Junior ultimately decides, in his “second life,” to focus on improving a doomed existence rather than attempting to escape it; he even encourages his daughter to campaign for an environment he knows will soon be destroyed. Do you think this was the right choice? Did you prefer the first ending, in which he worked feverishly to save himself, his father, and his world?
  • When presented with the opportunity to go back and “choose his own adventure,” his best self among millions of possibilities, Junior chooses the same life with one important difference, one decision to un-make. Do you think this plot twist helps the novel succeed as a literary work?
  • Which of the multiple narrators did you most enjoy hearing from? Which did you like the least?
  • How does Junior’s relationship with his family affect his decisions and, ultimately, the fate of the world?
  • Were you surprised at the turn Junior’s life took after high school when Amy left and he began his downward spiral? What were you expecting for him as a young adult at that point in the novel?
  • In Chicago, Junior meets Reggie, an unstable multiple-amputee with murderous ambitions. What role do you think Reggie plays in Junior’s life? Why does Junior come so close to participating in Reggie’s plan and why does he back out?
  • Perhaps the most content character in this novel is Rodney after his brain is damaged by an early drug addiction. Do you think ignorance is really bliss?
  • Amy is uncertain about whether to leave Earth even after she knows it will be destroyed until Ralph, the old man they meet in the wilderness, convinces her to go. What do you think it is about her encounter with Ralph that ultimately convinces her?
  • The novel’s argument is announced in its title: Everything matters. Did the author convince you of this conclusion?

Customer Reviews

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Everything Matters! 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A child is born with the knowledge of the day and time of the end of the world. This is the unique premise at the center of this cleverly plotted novel. I did not know what to expect when I began reading it, and now that I have finished it, I am still intrigued. The setting is rural Maine. The author displays a thorough knowledge of New England, and scenes that take place in several other locales ring true as well. The details of daily life and culture spanning 36 years, ending in the very near future are authentic and realistic. The narrative flow focuses on Junior Thibodeau's relationships with his family and loved ones. Particularly how his foreknowledge effects these relationships and his life choices. There are gaps and variations in tone that would be disruptive in most novels. Somehow, they only seemed to draw me further into the story. If you are looking for a real change of literary pace, give it a try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The beginning of the book, until Junior is almost a teenager is quite boring. I actually stopped reading the book and didn't pick it up again until two months later and once I started I couldn't stop until I finished at 1am when I had to be up at 6am. It's extreme;y well written and worth the slow start. Please read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I burned through this book, and I bought Everything Matters! for several people on my Christmas list. It was a great read, and I look forward to reading more by this author.
CarterBenz More than 1 year ago
Boring at times but overall very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Its a love story, sci fi,suspense novel all in one. So many overlapping story lines of family, love, and survival. Note that i generally hate sci fi too. This is an amazingly clever literary work of art nd a worthwhile read.
auntmarge64 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unexpectedly, this was a book I couldn't put down. Despite the fact that it's clear from the first few pages that the world is doomed, this story of a boy who has been given this information since before birth, and who grows up with the knowledge of exactly how long he will live and how life will end for everyone here, is mesmerizing and beautifully written. Told from various viewpoints, including that of the beings who have given Junior this information and continue to talk to him throughout his life, the simple humanity of Junior's life and of those around him pulls the reader in and forces the reader's emotional involvement. Magical.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While still in the womb, the voice in his head tells Junior that the world will end on June 15, 2010. Kind of a depressing way to grow up, no? So the question Junior wants to answer is does everything matter? Or does nothing matter? At various times of his life, he answers this question differently, so we follow along with him on his roller coaster of high achievement and drug/alcohol abuse. If you knew the world was going to end when you are 36 years old, how would you choose to live? The format takes getting used to--Junior's story is told from many different points of view, including the disembodied voice, his mother, his girlfriend, his brother. There is lots of philosophy of life here, and a good dose of Vonnegut-esque humor. Slightly meandering at time--some of the plot lines could have been shorter, but overall very satisfying.
Litfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Everything Matters!" tackles the question: how would a person live their lives with the knowledge, given to them before birth, that in 36 years all life on Earth will cease to exist? Given the ultimate outcome of life, whether by comet, car crash or natural death, do any of our actions really matter?Told from the perspective of John Jr., or Junior, the knowing protagonist, The Voice that bestowed the knowledge and then accompanies him through life, and various family members, the novel follows Junior's choices from birth to the time the cataclysmic event draws near.There is a point in the novel where Junior's character becomes a bit unlikeable. There are also some plot twists that could feel a bit implausible, but Currie's strength as a writer is getting the reader to trust him enough to suspend disbelief. His witty and captivating writing style successfully smoothes over the rough parts. His voice is fresh, sometimes sardonic, and often deeply philosophical. In a novel with an obviously depressing theme, Currie manages to inject hope. It's a unique novel that remains engaging even through the minor bumps in the storyline, and entertains while provoking some interesting philosophical questions.
annszyp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you knew from birth the world would be destroyed when you are thirty-something, would every thing matter? Or would nothing matter? I loved this book -- I found it thoughtful and original. I happened across an advance copy, and can't wait until it's published and I can push it.
booksmitten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"A great novel, probably unlike anything else you've read. Imagine learning, on the day you're born, when and how the world will end (during your lifetime). What would YOU do with that information?"I really enjoyed this book. Good for fans of David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo. Good commentary on the human condition and on the state of our world and our culture. Nicely fleshed out characters. And they all felt consistent, even after the alternate shift in the last 30 pages. I've got a weakness for shifting points of view, for kaleidoscopic narrative progression, and Currie did it well. I liked the rather experimental sections at the beginning and the end (the womb and the alternate ending) -- they provided nice bookends to the main body. I was refreshingly immersed in this book, read it in less than a week.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nuff said
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