“The great American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘It is not the length of life, but the depth of life.’ You don’t need a long lifetime to make an impact on this world. You just need the will to do so.”―Nikki Erlick, The Measure.
If you could discover the time of your death, would you?
This is the question at the heart of Nikki Erlick’s debut novel, The Measure, and it left me conflicted. I was swept up in the lives of the eight ordinary people who were faced with this tough choice, and I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do in their shoes.
It seems like any other day. People around the globe wake up, go outside, and find a small wooden box with an identical inscription waiting for them. Inside is a string showing the exact number of years they will live. Everyone must decide whether to learn their fate. Nobody knows where the boxes came from or who sent them, but the world grapples with the ramifications of the information the boxes contain.
The book is well written. Erlick has a talent for weaving together multiple narratives in a way that is seamless and understandable. The audio narration by Julia Whelan was the cherry on top. But be warned; it might leave you with a sense of unease.
Even though I was swept up in the story, I was also frustrated. Perhaps it’s because the premise of the book hits too close to home after the Covid pandemic. While I appreciated the author’s attempt to explore the political and social implications of the scenario, I couldn’t help but notice the book had a liberal bias.
As a person of faith, I found some portrayals in the book to be insulting. And although I understand Erlick was trying to create a diverse cast of characters, that there were three gay couples felt heavy-handed.
The Measure was my book club’s January pick. The book is thought-provoking, engaging, and reflective, and we had a rousing discussion. Some of us wanted to find out what was in our box, but most of us did not. I wouldn’t, but it would be awfully tempting. The impact of that knowledge could be devastating.
The verdict? The average rating of members of my book club was 3-stars. We had a 2.5 and a couple 3.5s. I gave it 3 stars. I’m not sorry I read it because the discussion was so good, but you’ll have to make your own choice.