Originally published: 7 July 2022
Author: Nikki Erlick
Published by: Borough Press
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Reading dates: 5-6 July 2022
Would you choose to find out the length of your life?
One spring day, small wooden boxes arrive for every person, all over the world, from suburban doorsteps to desert tents. All the boxes feature the same inscription, “The measure of your life lies within,” and vary in only two ways: the name of the recipient and the length of the single string inside. Instantly, the world is thrust into a collective frenzy, first to ascertain their origin and meaning, and then to confront the truth of the strings.
Told through multiple perspectives, The Measure introduces an unforgettable cast of characters whose lives weave and interlock with one another upon the arrival of the strings: a doctor who cannot save himself, a couple who thought they didn’t have to rush, best friends whose dreams are forever entwined, pen pals finding refuge in the unknown, and a politician whose string becomes a powder keg in an increasingly turbulent world.
As society divides itself, the truth has the power to unravel their long-held beliefs and relationships all while forging new alliances and philosophies about our time on this earth and our place in the community. Both heartbreaking and profoundly uplifting, The Measure is a sweeping, ambitious meditation on life, family, and society that challenges us to consider the best way to live life to the fullest.
I was lucky enough to receive a very intriguing proof copy of The Measure earlier this year and the tag line above really excited me. I do love speculative fiction like this!
The Measure begins in March when one day, everyone in the world over the age of 22 receives a small wooden box on their doorstep marked with their name. Every box is identical and as news spreads about the boxes, people are alarmed. Where did they come from? Some are reluctant to open them. Others let their curiosity take over and find in their box a simple piece of string. It soon becomes apparent that the length of the string correlates to how long the owner has left to live.
Told from the point of view of multiple characters – those who find themselves with long strings and so guaranteed of a long life, those with shorter strings of various lengths who have to come to terms with the fact they will die before they reach old age and those who choose to never open their box and so live in ignorance.
A thought provoking book, it made me really think about what I would do in this situation and made for an interesting discussion with my family. It was fascinating to see how people reacted to their strings – couples with different length strings break up while others pledge to stay together. Dating websites spring up which try and match people with a similar string length. The strings becomes a political issue – should a presidential hopeful with a short string be able to run for office? Discrimination is the major result of the strings – one character talks about how she has always suffered discrimination because of her sex and her skin colour but now also has to contend with her short string too.
I loved how some of the characters become connected because of their strings. New friendships and relationships are formed and there are positives to come out of the situation as well as negatives.
The Measure is a clever, thought provoking and heart-breaking book – I was surprised how much it touched me, actually having me sobbing at one point. Well conceived and imaginative – it has a solid 5 stars from me!
Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to Borough Press for my finished copy. Check out what other reviewers are saying on their blogs below
About the author:
Nikki Erlick’s writing has appeared on the websites of New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Newsweek, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post. She graduated Harvard University summa cum laude and is a former editor of The Harvard Crimson. She earned a master’s degree in Global Thought from Columbia University. The Measure is her debut novel.