The Measure Book Review
Book reviews are back, and I have missed you guys! I hope you all kept up with your summer reading, but if you didn’t, I’m not your English teacher and will not quiz you for a grade! I’ve enjoyed several books this summer that I suspect will end up on my “best of” list at the end of the year. Ann Napolitano’s newest release, Hello Beautiful, is one I highly recommend. For those who like a sweeping epic, settle in with Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. Both books are loosely based on classic literature, Little Women (Alcott) and David Copperfield (Dickens), respectively.
Nevertheless, today we are here to talk about The Measure by Nikki Erlick. I’m not sure I’ve read another fiction book that guided the way I thought about my existence and purpose in the same manner this book did.
The Measure was nominated for best science fiction book of 2022 and best debut novel by Good Reads Choice Awards. To recap, In the Spring of 2020, boxes began arriving on doorsteps around the world for anyone over the age of 22. The box contains a red string with the quote, “The measure of your life lies within.” Soon it is determined that the red strings indicate the length of your life. The Measure takes us along the journey of eight different characters and their new boxes, some opened, some intact, and how the string length impacts their lives moving forward. We get to know lovers, a presidential candidate, a surgeon, pen pals, and military academy classmates. It begs so many questions, but it seems the natural place to start is would you open your box? Erlick takes great care in showing both sides of the knowing and not knowing. How powerful this information can be and how it can change the way you think about the middle part of life.
“... and so, perhaps, the length didn’t matter. That the beginning and the end may have been chosen for us, the string already spun, but the middle had always been left undetermined, to be woven and shaped by us.” —The Measure, Erlick
“Maybe the boxes are like that, too. Nobody can offer any foolproof explanation for them, so they end up meaning whatever we want them to mean—whether that’s God or fate or magic. And no matter how long your string is, that, too, can mean whatever you want it to—a license to behave however you want, to stop dieting, to seek revenge, to quit your job, to take a risk, to travel the world.” —The Measure, Erlick
“but maybe that’s not the only measure we have. Maybe there are thousands of other ways we could measure our lives—the true quality of our lives—that lies within us, not within some box. And, by your own measure, you can still be happy. You can live well." —The Measure, Erlick
The Measure feels current and relatable while also taking you to an imagined world that seems familiar yet far away. There’s a dynamic reckoning between the human reaction to fight or flight per se.
I’d be lying if there wasn’t a near-constant loop of "Seasons of Love" from RENT playing in the back of my head throughout this novel. “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes…” In the end, I feel confident I would look at my string. I’m unashamedly a person who wants to know how the book ends before I get there. The Measure inspired me to think and gently nudged me to find richer beauty in each day, much like what I imagine receiving a box on our front door would feel like. The truth is all of our lives are measured. May we boldly set out each day with a purpose to live more intently and respectfully.