116 of 120 people found the following review helpful
Each and every one of us walks around with our own personal sword of Damocles dangling over our heads, which we do our darnedest to forget. This book tackles the question of how we would react if we could ignore no longer the looming end of our existence. The protagonist, Junior, is singled out (for unnamed reasons) to receive the wisdom and prognostications of some omniscient entity or entities (God? Aliens? We are never told). Chief among the information given to Junior is the news that the Earth would be struck and destroyed by a large comet 36 years after his birth. The novel follows the story of Junior's life from multiple perspectives: the omniscient entity, Junior's mother, brother, girlfriend, father (who is the book's most sympathetic and heroic figure), and Junior himself. Most of the plot centers around Junior's desperate fight against destiny.
Without spoiling crucial aspects of the plot, I will say that at first I wished it had ended differently. I kept thinking about the book, though, throughout the night, and the next day, and the day after. I returned to it and read the final few chapters again. And, slowly, I began to appreciate the point uttered quite bluntly by the author on the last page yet which remains so terribly, terribly hard to accept: "...that there is no escape and never was, that from the moment two cells combined to become one they were doomed."
The beauty of this novel is that the author somehow manages to convey both the depressing and inescapable reality of our doom as well as the simultaneous truth we are also given the gift of life and the unspeakable beauty and joy that entails--and where everything *does* matter.
I am a voracious reader and read several books a week, of all genres. Most books I enjoy in a somewhat detached and absent-minded way. A very few move me to tears and stay with me well after I have finished reading them-- Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," "The Book Thief," "The Lovely Bones," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time," "White Noise," and "A Prayer for Owen Meany," to name a few. This novel is another such book for me.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
What if we knew without a doubt when life on earth would end. Also, what if we knew that destruction would come during our lifetime; how would we cope? The author deals with these situations in a fascinating way, ultimately even showing alternative solutions. Page by page we discover how one man deals with precognition and how it alters his life relationships before the end. In painful detail, we see how Junior Thibodeau deals with the impact of the fatal prophecy. Also, the plot is expanded through the eyes of his family and his girlfriend. Ultimately, without weakening the ending, Junior is given an almost impossible choice.
If you are looking for an action packed sci-fi novel or a biblical "Left behind" type story this is not for you. If you are looking for a solid story about interesting people making their way through a complicated world this might be for you. As a work of fiction knowing the ending could become tedious, however; the author gives us numerous story developments that keep us entertained till the end.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2009
Right from the start EVERYTHING MATTERS! reminded me of Carlos Fuentes's CHRISTOPHER UNBORN (US 1989), both in scope and in tone. Granted, both novels have nothing to do with each other as far as plot or story (per say), but the general idea of a birth of portent, of a child waking into this world with the world literally on their shoulders, well, it's heady stuff and whereas CHRISTOPHER UNBORN ran with satire and black comedy, EVERYTHING MATTERS! aims for the sweet spot of the brain by asking the question...if you you knew that the world was going to end, for sure, since birth...well, would anything you do actually matter?
The answer will come as no surprise to those willing to simply answer the question at face value, but for those that need something more, then Ron Currie, Jr. has done a surprising job of balancing the scales between the inevitable and the journey getting there. Each chapter is a countdown of both the years left before humankind is destroyed and the events in Junior Thibodeau's life growing up as his family grows apart, dies off and eventually comes together for the final chapter - simple, but I was surprised how well Currie managed to put the mundane on the page and make it stick.
There are some truly boring moments which, in any other book, may have been struck through by an editor as wasteful, but here Currie is unafraid to explore corners in his characters lives we often ignore in our own...it comes across with a feeling of crawling under your bed, laying on your back and taking the time to actually EXAMINE everything that went into making the bed and seeing everything done to the bed by your body over the years.
It's like writing a field guide on dust buinnes or trying to see the soda in the can before you open it - there is this effortless "pressure" inside Currie's writing that makes you want to know more, that makes you want to look and "see" the life around you. This is rare for a novel and for some, it may read a little plain on the page, but, stick with it until the end and you will find your reward in more the effort than the story itself, which makes it a lot like life.
So, this big question is...is there really a big question? The title is front and center, EVERYTHING MATTERS!, it's not there for show, it's not really up for debate, it simply is and you can either chose to ignore it or accept it.
In the end, EVERYTHING MATTERS! is like your favorite movie - it's something you've seen a hundred times and the end is always the same, but what keeps you coming back isn't the structure, or the plot, or even the characters, but how it makes you feel - in short, it's "everything" that matters.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2009
I worried through the entirety of my pregnancy. How, I fretted, could I bring a child into this world? How could I protect him? What did he have to look forward to but melting ice caps, tsunamis, wild fires, genocide, floods, hurricanes, drought, war, war, war, serial killers, crazed gunmen in schools, bullies, etc. Now that I am a parent, I realize I can't protect him from these things. I can only protect him from what I can control, and even then I am often left powerless.
We will do as we wish, we humans.
Ron Currie's daring, humorous, poignant, heart-wrenching, and, ultimately, joyful second novel, Everything Matters! also addresses the question of how can one bring a child into a troubled world. Most importantly, though, it follows the life of Junior, who not only knows how he will end, but knows how the world will end as well.
It is from there, his foreknowledge, that we witness the choices he makes in his life--when does he choose to give up and when does he choose to push beyond his limits. When does he choose to live and accept all of the beauty that life has to offer him even though he knows it will one day be taken away.
Yes, on the surface this is a book about mass destruction, but it's not about hopelessness. Rather, it's about what we wake up and choose to do each day--put one foot ahead of the other and move forward even though we know that one day we will cease to be. We are all brave to live, to choose to live.
Some books you read to be entertained, others to learn something, and some you read to change your life. Everything Matters! was all of these books for me. I finished it just as my two-year-old was waking up from his nap. I was crying as I picked him up from his crib, not because I was sad, but because I was so happy and grateful that he was alive in this beautiful world where everything matters.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Part of the natural order is that all things come to an end. Whether we like the idea or not, each of us will one day die. Ron Currie, Jr.'s new novel, Everything Matters!, explores the theme that we face an infinite number of choices in life, and those choices become connected with others, and have consequences that make a real difference, hence the title. Protagonist Junior Thibodeau hears voices and has precognition from infancy. He dreams with clarity and specificity that Earth will be destroyed by a comet on June 15, 2010. Junior's considerable intelligence leads him in one set of choices to save the world. Along the way he realizes that there is no way to avoid the tragedies of living: both the good and the bad matter. Deliverance or salvation comes from living, not from avoiding life. We will all die, most of us just don't know the date, so why would knowing the date make a difference in how we choose to live? Junior chooses another possible set of choices, and that approach to life also has consequences, both good and bad. Everything Matters! could be considered a philosophical novel and would provide for lively discussion by any book club. Junior could be compared to Jesus, and the ensuing "what would Jesus do?" conversation would be animated. Currie's characters are thoughtfully constructed, and his prose includes fine dialogue, vivid descriptions and remarkable creativity. Everything Matters! is a joy to read, and left me thinking and reflecting long after I turned the last page.
Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Everything Matters by Ron Currie, Jr. is hard to describe, the plot line is given in the product descriptions. Junior Thibodeau knows when a comet will destroy human life on earth. This knowledge for him, as for almost anyone who has a voice telling them this truth creates a perplexity of tribulations.
As life is, so is the reading of this novel... it can be depressing or it can also be the summing up of humanity.... Everything matters, there is hope. Life can be changed to alternate realities - and what does it mean or matter in then end?. Change can be accomplished by the simplest examples... a bumble bee, not stepped on pollinates a field of flowers, that inspires the building of a center, that saves the quality of some boy's life, who in turn goes on to save others; sort of a merry go round of life and thought.
That is what this novel contains in the story of an adolescent who has voices telling him exactly when the world will end. The narrators vary in sections of the book, which makes for an interesting turn of style of reading. The father, the brother, the girlfriend, the all knowing narrator themselves. These shifting viewpoints create an interest that would not be there with only one viewpoint.
A caution, if you are thinking of getting this book as an end of the world sci fi thriller/story, that is not what it really is. It is a sometimes profound reading...the choice is yours, every choice has its' consequences.
For a book dealing with the end of the world as we know it, it is full of the joy of humanity, but at the same time it also is full of the depression. There are profound ideas in places...in utero - enjoy it, never again will you have so little responsibility for your survival, but even that is confounded, as this baby has to fight to survive there.
Even though we all know life ends - what would we do if we knew exactly when, and what if everyone we would normally know would be left behind would be destroyed in that instance? It can be a confusing book, but always is out of the ordinary, slogging through with the vagaries of life - an almost philosophical work.. It would be an interesting book club read, because everything matters!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I did not read the author's first book, so had no expectations, and was pleasantly surprised. Like some of Koontz and King, there is a lot of philosophy and storytelling packed into this little book. You follow Junior, who is born barely alive, guided by some "angels" with the knowledge that the world will end on a certain date when he is 36. The strength of the story is in the engrossing introspective chronicle of Junior's life. He is a superintelligent misfit wandering in a nightmare of impending doom, from a flawed home life with the stereotypical distant father, alcoholic mother, drug-addicted brother. He meets Amy, with a violent mother, who rejects his dark future vision and the story moves forward. Junior scrambles to redeem himself, but can he save the world? Here are echoes of Koontz in Lightning. Maybe some things may just be meant to be and nothing matters. Find out for yourself.
As others have said, some loose ends, but maybe life is truly more about the journey than the ending.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Ron Currie Jr's "Everything Matters" rivals "The Road" as the best serious fiction of this decade. I'd place it along side "The Road" and "Stranger in a Strange Land" as some of the most memorable fiction of the last 50 years. Normally when I write reviews, I'll post both highs and lows, even for great books. With "Everything Matters" I'm at a loss to find a single criticism.
Currie's writing is simple yet powerful. There's nothing extra that doesn't need to be there, nothing ever feels forced or contrived. His story is full of deeply real characters, each of whom is instantly believable and recognizable. And while the story is told from multiple points of view of an ensemble cast, there are no extraneous characters to distract.
The lead character Junior is burdened from before birth with the absolute proven knowledge of the date and manner of the end of life on earth, coming soon in under 40 years. This knowledge has been imparted to him by some alien or otherworldly consciousness while he was still a fetus. This consciousness continues to communicate with Junior through his life. And the story is told from the points of view of Junior, his girlfriend Amy, his cocaine addict turned baseball star brother Rodney, the "alien" consciousness, and occasionally his father.
Through Junior's struggles with his foreknowledge of the "destroyer of worlds" we're forced to consider questions about what does matter in our lives. Nothing? If the world is ending in under 40 years taking all life with it, do friendships matter, does love and family matter, does addiction matter, does death tomorrow versus a week from now matter.
Junior and his family make mistakes. They love, they lose. They act out of desperate love, they destroy that which they love most. They're just like so many of us feel, with their intensity dials cranked up to 11.
Ultimately Junior concludes, as the title suggests, even in the loss of everything, yes, everything matters. It is indeed better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. It's better to make the world a better place, if only for a year or a day, than to give up hope.
While not as grueling or hopeless as "The Road" the same intensity of love between Junior and his girlfriend Amy, and with his family, is present as between father and son in "The Road." Likewise as both deal with "end of the world as we know it" - or worse - the comparison seems right. And despite my earlier comparison to "Stranger in a Strange Land" and the presence of an alien intelligence, "Everything Matters" is not science fiction. Like "stranger", Junior's story deals with isolation, in his case the isolation of being the only person amongst billions to know for sure when the world will end. It deals loving when you feel different. And ultimately, I found the conclusion of "Everything Matters" to be much more rewarding than "stranger" which I see as a great yet flawed work.
It's rare for me to feel inspired by fiction. "everything matters" makes me want to hold my family close and make every second matter. Thank you Ron Currie Jr.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
While still in utero, Junior receives guidance from a voice in his head. Just after he is actually born, the voice tells him that the a comet will strike the earth in 36 years, killing all humanity. With this little tidbit of information, Junior begins his life, one that includes a drug-addicted older brother who is a baseball prodigy, an alcoholic mother, and a stoic father. Junior is extraordinarily bright, and while in school, he meets Amy, with whom he falls in love, only to blow it all by telling her one night that he hears voices. She ends their romance, leaving Junior in a downward spiral from which he emerges just enough to convince the government of the threat posed by the comet and to begin the task of trying to save humanity. And that's just the beginning.
Author Ron Currie, Jr., switches point of view constantly throughout the story, a technique that allows the story to cover more ground, but there are points at which the story suffers from its own excesses. Several scenes could have been shortened significantly or omitted entirely, especially in the first half of the book. Nonetheless, I found "Everything Matters!" an enjoyable read, one with a surprising touch of sentimentality at the end.
Essentially, here was my trajectory through the novel: (1) Junior is about to be born, but the voices talk to him--I thought the premise interesting and was eager to keep reading. (2) Junior is a child and still hears the voices, which often narrate his life--I grew a bit impatient with the fact that the story wasn't moving along quickly enough. (3) Junior enters adulthood--I grew somewhat depressed with the way in which the characters' lives were spiraling downward. (4) Junior begins to tackle the problem of the comet--I was eager to keep reading. (5) From that last part until the end--I read through in a single sitting, finding my interest growing with each page.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2010
Ron Currie Jr. would probably take umbrage with a Bud Light commercial making the rounds these days. In it, scientists spot a meteor heading toward Earth, realize that death is imminent, and commence partying as if nothing matters anymore. But Currie takes a rather unconventional route toward trying to convince you that, even when you know you're going to die, everything in fact, DOES matter.
When our protagonist, Junior Thibodeau, is born, a mysterious voice, which stays with him his entire life, informs him the exact moment the world will end. A comet will crash into the planet on June 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm EST, approximately 36 years from the day he's born. So Junior has to go through life trying to make meaning out of a seemingly purposeless existence, or as he says at a particularly low point of his adulthood, "...life has never been any great f#$%ing shakes in my opinion. In fact, it's always seemed a messy and heartbreaking and overall pointless affair."
Will Junior ever change his mind? I kept hoping so, and that's why I couldn't stop reading. Everything Matters! is a novel about discovering the pleasures of life, the importance of love, and capitalizing on opportunities. Look, death is a part of life, Currie would say. We all know we're going to die. Whether we know exactly when doesn't matter. What does is that for life to fulfilling, to matter, we must find our own paths toward life's meaning. So, carpe diem!
The story is told though a cadre of shifting narrators -- Junior himself, his family and his girlfriend Amy, and the Voices Junior hears, which tell their sections to Junior ("We should tell you at this point," eg.) in a numbered countdown to Comet Day. We see Junior come of age, struggle with alcoholism and heartbreak, and generally try to make meaning of his life.
The pleasures of this novel are two-fold: the characters and the writing. The characters: Junior's brother, recovering from a teenage cocaine addiction, which rendered him, um, simple-minded, plays baseball for the Cubs. His mother is an alcoholic and his father a workaholic. And, addition to the fact that he hears the Voices, Junior himself is also the 4th smartest person on the planet, according to the Voices. But he's still a normal, easily recognizable dude, as are all these flawed-but-real characters.
Secondly, Currie is a fabulously talented, fun-to-read writer. At one point, writing about Junior and his classmates watching the Challenger explosion, he describes the booster rockets that "...fly wildly away...tracing slow, chunky vapor trails, like illiterate skywriters." I got chills. What an image!
But beyond a sentence-by-sentence basis, the inventive structure of the novel -- the different narrators, the omniscient Voices counting down section-by-section to doomsday -- gives a well-rounded perspective on Junior and the events of the story. The fact that other characters tell their own stories in the first person also lends a bit more realism to the novel, lest you're turned off by the narrative gimmick of the Voices telling us what's happening to Junior. And, finally, the structure works and is necessary because Junior is often so jilted and misanthropic that the multiple narrators bring much-needed reliability and trust to the story. They also provide some essential levity. If we only heard Junior's story, most readers would stop after page 75, depressed and frustrated.
The only major problem I had with the book (and the reason for 4 instead of 5 stars) is that just after I understood the point, and was kind of in awe of Currie's writerly prowess and looking forward to a great, profound ending, Currie turns to a sort of silly narrative trick. It made me wonder if Currie's editor didn't request another 50 or so pages to beef up the book a bit. But I don't want to dissuade you from reading this great book. The good far outweighs the bad, and the uplifting message makes it a fine book for anyone who has ever struggled to understand what it all means.
(Two other reasons I loved this novel, that I'm putting down here because most readers of this review probably won't care: 1) Currie includes a hilarious inside joke intended solely for sports geeks: Junior's older brother Rodney plays for the Cubs, and in one the sections Rodney narrates, he explains that he has to use a fake name to check into hotels to avoid stalkers. That fake name: Ron Mexico, which is also the fake name Michael Vick used when he checked into hotels. 2) There's a homage to David Foster Wallace's short story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men -- a conversation between Junior's brother Rodney and a therapist in which we only get to read Rodney's side of the conversation. Don't worry, if this post-modern strategy isn't your cup of tea, it's only a few pages and doesn't distract from the main story at all.)