Source: Review copy
Publication: 7 July 2022 from The Borough Press
My thanks to The Borough Press for an advance copy for review
Eight ordinary people. One extraordinary choice.
It seems like just another morning.
You make a cup of tea. Check the news. Open the front door.
On your doorstep is a box.
Inside the box is the exact number of years you have left to live.
The same box appears on every doorstep across the world.
Do you open yours?
The Measure is a simple and very clever concept and it really makes you think about what’s important in your life. I don’t know whether it’s because of the pandemic – and indeed I think that has an impact – but this book just struck a strong chord with me.
It’s a one line question that has multi-layered implications and delves deep into what really matters. It leads to an examination of relationships with friends and family and an understanding of how much influence every individual has about the way they choose to approach their existence.
On the same day, everyone aged 22 and over receives a box. Inside that box is a piece of string. The length of the string is a foretelling of the length of the life of the recipient.
Would you open that box? Would you want to know? If so, why? What difference would it make to the way you currently live your life? The Measure takes a number of characters and looks at how they handle these and other questions and how this impacts on society as a whole.
The book concentrates on 8 people; mainly those who have short strings, their friends and family. It also considers those who choose not to open the box, preferring to live life as it comes. We see how there are some people who choose to use this knowledge to create fear and apprehension in order to create a personal advantage for themselves. Others choose to embrace the knowledge in order to make sure their life is meaningful and they can express the love they otherwise might have held back to ensure reciprocation. Life takes on a different meaning when you know that time is short. Relationships can strengthen or fade away when one has a short string and the other not. The decision to have children is one that takes on new meaning.
In a beautifully written novel, Nikki Erlick creates a tapestry of interwoven threads that reach into the heart of the meaning of life.
The cast of characters in The Measure is diverse and it’s fascinating to read and understand the different perspectives. Amie doesn’t want to know; she’s never going to open her box – that way madness lies. Others find difficulty in the strain that it puts on their relationships and the law makers try and legislate for this new development as employers scramble to lose employees whose life spans may not suit their plans.
Erlick’s intriguing and thought-provoking book is both affirming and provocative. She does a great job of portraying both the deeply personal and the societal impacts of this event and the ways in which it can so easily be exploited. But she also shows how meaningful life could become if approached with a positive mental attitude. To choose to know can be a life-affirming decision or it can weigh you down with grief and regret.
Verdict: I enjoyed the dilemmas raised in this book and the fact that it creates so many discussion points. This is contemporary dystopian fiction with real relevance. Original and emotive it makes for a compelling and extraordinary debut novel. This is speculative fiction at its best.
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Nikki Erlick is a writer and editor whose work has appeared online with New York Magazine, Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, The Huffington Post, Indagare Travel, BookTrib, and Vox Media. As a travel writer, she explored nearly a dozen countries on assignment—from rural villages in France to the arctic fjords of Norway. As a ghostwriter, she’s written for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and academics. She graduated Harvard University summa cum laude and was an editor of The Harvard Crimson. She earned her master’s degree in Global Thought from Columbia University. The Measure is her debut novel.