A week or so ago, I mentioned that I had started reading The Measure by Nikki Erlick. In case you missed it, here is the Goodreads “tease” about the book:
Here is the summary from Goodreads:
Eight ordinary people. One extraordinary choice.
It seems like any other day. You wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and head out.
But today, when you open your front door, waiting for you is a small wooden box. This box holds your fate inside: the answer to the exact number of years you will live.
From suburban doorsteps to desert tents, every person on every continent receives the same box. In an instant, the world is thrust into a collective frenzy. Where did these boxes come from? What do they mean? Is there truth to what they promise?
As society comes together and pulls apart, everyone faces the same shocking choice: Do they wish to know how long they’ll live? And, if so, what will they do with that knowledge?
The Measure charts the dawn of this new world through an unforgettable cast of characters whose decisions and fates interweave with one another: best friends whose dreams are forever entwined, pen pals finding refuge in the unknown, a couple who thought they didn’t have to rush, a doctor who cannot save himself, and a politician whose box becomes the powder keg that ultimately changes everything.
All in all, I found the book to be very good. I found it to be thought provoking and almost scary in regard to just how much of it I could relate to the world today.
There is so much division in the world today. Those divisions can be religious, racial, political, sexual and many other subdivisions. In the book, those divisions are based on the length of the string a person had. In the story, long strings mean a long life and short strings mean a short life. Throughout the story, we see the way “short stringers” are treated by “long stringers.” You could easily substitute “White, Straight, or Christian” for “long stringers” and “Black, Gay, and Atheist” for “Short stringers” and kind of apply the book to today.
In the story, there is a “short stringer” running for President. People are up in arms about voting for someone that they know could very well die in office. Lincoln, Kennedy, FDR, and a few others died in office and many would think that they were good Presidents. If people knew they were going to die, would they have been elected? If not, think of the possible alternate historical outcomes.
While the strings are the underlying theme of the book, as well as the thing that brings everything together, it is really about the 8 main characters and how they react to them. I found them to be believable and I really enjoyed how the lives of these characters all intersected and came together. I questioned a few things about a couple of the characters and then realized that the way they were written was something that was needed to compare with the strings.
There was a couple twists toward the end of the story that were unexpected. Some reviews I read said that the book left them in tears. I didn’t cry, but it certainly made an impact on me and I thought about it for a few days.
Would You Open Your Box?
There are characters in the book who do not open their box. They chose to live life without the knowledge of when they are going to die. They chose not to feel the burden of knowing they only have a short while, or relax knowing that they have a long life ahead of them.
As for the ones who know the length of their strings, we are shown the various feelings that go along with that. Husbands with long strings and their wives with short strings. How do you prepare for that? What if you were let go from your job, or not hired for one, because of the length of your string?
The book made me think about a lot. I would certainly recommend it.
I have said before that one of my “life quotes” was something I read in 1988: “Live every day as if it were your last. Some day, you’ll be right.” In the book, I read where someone had a sign or a t-shirt that read, “Live like a short stringer” or something to that effect. Same kind of thing.
Now that I am in my 50’s, I think often about wanting to be sure that I get the most out of the rest of my years. I want to experience all the joys of my marriage and make memories with my wife. I have 4 children – two of them under 3 years old. I want to witness all the things they do. I want to see graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. I want to experience daddy/daughter picnics and dances and once again coach t-ball and teach them how to throw a baseball.
Once you reach 50, life sort of begins the downward slope. I am eating right and losing weight because I want to be around for a long time. I don’t want to leave my family alone. I want to be there to offer the right advice. I want to be there to comfort any sadness. I want to be there to give praise and encouragement. I want to be there to share the happiness and sadness of life’s ups and downs.
I don’t have a string to tell me how long I’ll be here, but I plan on living each day to its fullest.