“The Measure” by Nikki Erlick is a speculative novel exploring a world in which every person over the age of 21 receives a box with a string that represents the length of their life. What follows next is a gripping journey as individuals grapple with the knowledge of their impending mortality and the choices they make.
Join me in this journey as I summarize the book for you, followed by my detailed review and lessons I learned along the way.
And in case you want to jump directly into the questions, we have an exclusive list of some amazingly detailed The Measure Book Club Questions.
Otherwise, you can read the review first.
The Measure Summary
The narrative follows multiple characters in New York City as they grapple with the implications of their own strings and navigate their lives and relationships in light of this new knowledge.
The characters range from romantic partners, who face differing lifespans, to a woman who engages in a profound anonymous correspondence, and a military recruit whose string length affects his career prospects.
The book also touches upon social and political ramifications of the strings.
A presidential candidate capitalizes on the public’s fear and the changing social dynamics, pushing for a controversial legislation that demands government and military officials to reveal their string lengths.
The narrative thus wrestles with individual and collective questions of morality, identity, discrimination, and the value of life in a world where lifespan is no longer a mystery.
Overall, “The Measure” presents a world that is compelled to confront mortality and life’s meaning in a profoundly altered way.
It portrays an array of human responses to the certainty of life’s length – fear, courage, denial, acceptance, and the power of love, friendship, and resilience in the face of looming mortality.
The novel is a powerful exploration of what it means to live knowing exactly how long one has left, and how society changes when everyone shares this knowledge.
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The Measure Review
“The Measure” by Nikki Erlick is a brilliantly conceived novel that pulled me from a seemingly ordinary world, irrevocably changed by the appearance of mysterious wooden boxes.
I found the novel to be an evocative exploration of life, mortality, societal constructs, and human reactions to inevitable fate.
The novel follows a diverse group of characters, each grappling with their lengths of strings – the measure of their lives. The protagonist Nina and her partner Maura are the first characters we meet.
When Maura finds her string is short and Nina’s is long, their lives take a sharp turn. I was deeply moved by their struggle and admired how they faced their fears head-on. The development of their relationship serves as a stark reminder of the importance of cherishing every moment.
One particular subplot that left a deep impression on me was the correspondence between Amie and Ben, two characters who had never met before.
Through their letters, they delve into philosophical discussions and explore their fears and hopes. The anonymity of their relationship allows for a raw, honest exploration of their thoughts. Erlick masterfully crafts their dialogue, making their connection feel genuine and affecting.
The political plotline, headed by presidential hopeful Anthony Rollins, was especially riveting. The establishment of the STAR Initiative, which bases job assignments and appointments on one’s string length, makes for a compelling commentary on discrimination and societal control. The storyline of Anthony’s nephew, Jack, and his friend, Javier, adds a compelling dimension to the narrative.
Their act of switching strings to subvert the system is both heartbreaking and powerful, reflecting the lengths individuals will go to for their aspirations and friendships.
The novel ends with a profound note, showing how societal perceptions of short-stringers have changed over the years. The tragic deaths of Ben and Amie serve as a reminder of the unpredictability of life, regardless of our perceived measures.
Erlick’s writing style is fluid and engaging, which makes the heavy subject matter digestible. She weaves threads of love, friendship, sacrifice, and courage into the narrative, painting a rich collection of human emotions.
The characters are well-rounded, with their imperfections making them relatable and real.
In conclusion, “The Measure” is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of an existential crisis. Despite the boxes’ morbid symbolism, the novel is ultimately uplifting, showcasing the potential for courage, love, and resilience despite life’s unpredictable turns.
This book offers a unique perspective on life, encouraging us readers to live fully in the present. A must-read for anyone who enjoys thought-provoking, character-driven narratives.
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1. The Implications of Foreknowledge
Nikki Erlick explores the profound implications of foreknowledge, specifically knowing the length of one’s life. This notion raises questions about how such knowledge would influence our actions, relationships, and societal structures.
For example, when Nina and Maura discover their divergent string lengths, their futures together become uncertain, altering their relationship dynamics.
Similarly, on a societal level, the foreknowledge provided by the strings leads to the creation of the STAR Initiative, which significantly impacts career trajectories and contributes to discrimination.
This theme invites us to reflect on the value of uncertainty in life and the potential repercussions of knowing too much about our future.
2. Discrimination and Stigmatization
Erlick’s novel also delves into how societies react to perceived differences, leading to discrimination and stigma.
This is evident in the discrimination faced by short-stringers who are seen as unstable and violent following a series of shootings. Additionally, the implementation of the STAR Initiative which forces government officials and military personnel to disclose their string lengths, further intensifies the discrimination.
This discrimination is challenged when Jack publically discloses his string-switching scheme with Javier, leading to the dismantling of the STAR Initiative.
The novel thus draws attention to the destructive nature of discrimination and the courage required to challenge unjust societal norms.
3. The Value of Courage in the Face of Mortality
The characters’ responses to their strings reveal the importance of courage in the face of mortality.
Maura, who has a short string, decides to live her life to the fullest, going on a vacation with Nina, and eventually getting married. Ben, despite his short string, pursues a relationship with Amie and starts a family. Even Jack, who initially switches strings to avoid facing a short life, later embraces his reality and takes brave steps to dismantle the discriminatory system.
In the end, Nina admires the courage of short-stringers and aspires to live her life as bravely as they have.
This underscores the novel’s message that courage and acceptance in the face of mortality can lead to a fulfilling life.
For those who like character-driven stories, this book also offers multiple interconnected narratives, providing different perspectives on the main premise.
Not for those who are more on the side of books that delve more into life’ philosophy.
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