Everything Matters! tidily places Ron Currie, Jr. among the most talented and creative new American novelists. In his first novel since the story collection God Is Dead, Currie reveals a style not unlike Vonnegut dry, but deadly funny, irreverent, and wholly meaningful. The storytelling is delicately but deliberately choppy, filled with impending dread and lingering hope. In utero, Junior Thibodeaux learns of a catastrophic, world-ending event some 30 years in his future. A voice explains the inevitability of the event, and Junior is born with the crippling knowledge of the impending doom he and everyone he'll grow to love will face. The voice is never explained it could be a group of all-knowing beings (the voice refers to "we") or it could be the author himself, but it remains ever-present in Junior's life.
This mysterious voice reveals important and otherwise unknowable details about the world to Junior, and becomes an established character, however vague and unknowable. Spoken with authority by Mark Deakins, the voice can be likened to that of a gently persistent psychiatrist. It reveals almost no opinion about Junior's choices. In neutral tones, Deakins lends the voice a feeling of all-knowing and all-seeing non-participation it does not step in to prevent or spark any decision by Junior. At the same time, the soft, steady narration includes subtleties of inflection that color the listener's perception. When Junior partakes in some dangerous activity, Deakins sounds almost imperceptibly disappointed and even a little concerned. This act of subtlety injects compassion and calm to what could have been a very cold, omnipresent voice.
Throughout the timeline of the novel, Currie pops in and out of the first person narratives of Junior, his parents, his girlfriend, and his brother, performed by several talented actors. These include Lincoln Hoppe (Junior), Hillary Huber (Junior's girlfriend Amy), Abby Craden (Junior's mother), Arthur Morey (Junior's father), and Doug Wert (Junior's brother Ron). Each narrator brings a unique voice perfectly matched to Currie's nonchalant, matter-of-fact tone. Hoppe deserves additional praise for exercising vocal restraint as the main character. Junior goes through a heck of a lot and is saddled with the emotional baggage of knowing the fate of the world, but Hoppe never lays it on thick in his narration. Instead he gives Junior a mentally exhausted, resigned tone that matches Currie's earlier description of Junior as a "serious child". Hoppe especially shines when the emotional weight of losing his girlfriend and his family start to wear Junior down. The additional characters show a range from endearingly innocent (Junior's baseball star brother Ron), bitterly beaten but strong (Junior's girlfriend Amy), and tough as nails but soft at heart (Junior's father).
Saddled with information that no one else could know or understand, Junior at first allows himself to be swept under the weight of such sadness. It's key to Currie's novel that Junior essentially chooses, and isn't naturally beset with, sadness. The story then follows Junior's trials and tribulations in his many attempts to either drown his sorrows or slave away on possible solutions to cheat the inevitable. In a novel where the outcome is a foregone conclusion, you might expect the slow dread of a world-ending event to creep up and make you take pause. The exact opposite is true, as Currie and the remarkable multi-cast narration miraculously keep you on the edge, hopeful until the very last. Josh Ravitz
In infancy, Junior Thibodeaux is encoded with a prophecy: a comet will obliterate life on Earth in 36 years. Alone in this knowledge, he comes of age in rural Maine grappling with the question, "Does anything I do matter?"
While the voice that has accompanied him since conception appraises his choices, Junior's loved ones emerge with parallel stories - his anxious mother; his brother, a cocaine addict turned pro-baseball phenomenon; his exalted father, whose own mortality summons Junior's best and worst instincts; and Amy, the love of Junior's life and a North Star to his journey through romance and heartbreak, drug-addled despair, and superheroic feats that could save humanity.
While our recognizable world is transformed into a bizarre nation at endgame, where government agents conspire in subterranean bunkers, preparing citizens for emigration from a doomed planet, Junior's final triumph confounds all expectation, building to an astonishing and deeply moving resolution.
Ron Currie, Jr., gets to the heart of character, and the voices who narrate this uniquely American tour de force leave an indelible, exhilarating impression.
©2009 Ron Currie; (P)2009 Penguin
"Like Kurt Vonnegut, Currie understands that . . . humor is a more powerful salt than screed." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Everything Matters! is one of the most unique novels I've come across this year - unpredictable without being flashy, sweet without being sentimental, thoughtful without being preachy - a fun read that will keep you thinking long after the story is over." (Amazon.com review)
I love books.
I highly recommend Everything Matters! The narration is excellent, and the story itself is well-written and unique. Based on this enjoyable listening experience, I am going to seek out the other book by this author.
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