Having the most impact
John “Junior” Thibodeau, since in utero, has known that in “thirty-six years, one-hundred-sixty-eight days, fourteen hours and twenty-three seconds from now, on June 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm EST” that a comet will hit the earth with the force of 283,824,000 Hiroshima bombs.
I hear voices
The Voice is what tells Junior of the world’s demise. A disembodied entity that no one else can hear and that shares the space within his head. Although the initial bearer of the bad news, the Voice serves as his guide, quietly offering advice and insight. However, it does ask him to question himself on only one thing: Does anything I do matter?
Neither malignant nor benign, the Voice gives its well-wishes and hope that the Junior will find a solution.
“‘It is our hope that, with knowledge of the epic disaster to come and the advantage of our continued assistance, you will have greater success at answering this question than those who have come before you. And we wish you much luck.’”
Of secrets, truths and lies
The Thibodeau’s are a strong family. Not so strong, however, that they are immune to temptation and dysfunction.
Through the omniscient voice and Junior’s eyes, we see the slow destruction of a family and how each of them is powerless to help one another.
Junior’s older brother at the ripe old age of 9-years-old develops a cocaine habit thanks to their oblivious, drug dealing Uncle. Their mother turns to drink to drown out the nightmares of her childhood and loneliness of her adulthood. His father, a Vietnam vet, who to avoid engaging in life and a shameful past, becomes a workaholic who slogs like a silent bull through his days. Even Junior’s girlfriend is not spared as she suffers from a history of abuse.
Forced to sit in the middle of the slowly building wreckage, Junior is powerless as it is the Voice who reveals his family’s silent suffering. Though there are moments when he could have said or done something to change an outcome, he is driven to stay silent or risk being labeled insane.
Does it really matter?
Forced into silence, Junior is a prisoner of his own conscience. With the knowledge he holds he lives a life of recklessness, drugs and alcoholism that borders on the psychotic. He is running. Running from an inevitable in which there is no escape.
At the height of his depravity, he agrees to a crazed plan concocted by a bar buddy, Reggie, who is wheelchair bound due to a disease that took his legs and part of his hand. Reggie wants to blow up the Harold Washington Social Security Administration Building with C4 strapped to his wheelchair in protest of the mistreatment of the disabled who want to be abled. Not like the able-bodied leeches who only take from society.
“‘Sittin’ around all month waitin’ for a check, get all the money they need, so they can cash it in for sixty cents on the dollar, spend half at the liquor store an’ lose the other half in a dice game. Got two good arms and legs, every one of ‘em, but ain’t never thought about gettin’ a job. While people like me want nothin’ more than to work, ‘cept we only got half a fuckin’ hand.’”
As they travel down the highway to the Social Security Administration building, Junior experiences an epiphany. His life, in various shades of blue, flashes before him as the Voice puts into words his chaotic emotions that he had up to this point, been unable to voice himself
“There’s never been anything but the sorrow of loss, paid over and over and always in advance, and your determination to go forth in the face of that sorrow. There is nothing heroic about this doggedness; there may well be, in fact, something cowardly concealed within it. Either way, you suddenly recognize—and appreciate—that more than anything else, this relentless slogging forward into life’s headwind makes you truly your father’s son.”
At that moment, the precise moment when he slows, pulls the getaway van into the breakdown lane, with an angry Reggie threatening him with the detonator switch from the back seat, Junior finds deliverance from his past and prophesied future. Faced with the reality of his and Reggie’s deaths, Junior suddenly realizes that he does want to live.
Now it’s just a matter of what to do with the 15 years he has left.
The book is a masterpiece of psychological torture and reprieve, and offers a plethora of twists and turns. As Junior trudges through his life and witnesses those of his mother, father, brother and girlfriend, you are also left to struggle with the inevitable. You come away from the story, from each section that is numbered in descending order in a subconscious countdown, with a breathlessness like no other.
With Everything Matters!, author Ron Currie, Jr. uses a cleverly crafted style, allowing you to live Junior’s life, experience his pain and joy as if they were your own. And much like the Choose Your Own Adventure books from way back when, Currie gifts us with the solid idea that the choice on how we live our life and share it with those around us is truly in our own hands. Because in the end one simple truth remains: Everything Matters!