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Book Review: The Measure by Nikki Erlick

I’ve just put this book down and HAD to write about it immediately.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick is one of the most life affirming, poignant, thought-provoking books I have ever read.

It seems like just another morning.

You make a cup of tea. Check the news. Open the front door.

On your doorstep is a box.

Inside the box is the exact number of years you have left to live.

The same box appears on every doorstep across the world.

Do you open yours?

That’s the question I asked myself repeatedly throughout reading this book, would I open the box?

It’s a concept that intrigued me and raised interesting questions for the characters both on a personal level and on a global scale; are the strings a curse or a gift? Nikki Erlick sparks interesting debates on all levels and The Measure will really make you think about life.

The Measure is told from the point of view of eight characters: Nina, Maura, Ben, Amie, Jack, Javier, Anthony and Hank.

Each of them wrestling with decision over whether or not to look at their stings and for those that do, having to live with the consequences of that choice. Knowing that their futures were now very different.

I loved how The Measure had each character questioning what they should do with this new knowledge.

Should you stay together if one of you has a long string and the other a short string?

Should you have children if you know you aren’t going to be around to see them grow?

Should you start dating a ‘short stringer’ or is better to keep your heart guarded?

Should you tell people or keep it to yourself?

It also raised much bigger questions about society as a whole. 

I am a cynic, so I wasn’t surprised when one character saw the strings as opportunity for political gain and used them to stoke fear and prejudice against those who hadn’t been granted a long string.

Measures were soon introduced blocking short stringers from certain jobs and government mandates came into force in some countries that forced people to declare their string length, both of which were depressingly realistic.

The decision to use the strings to promote division and ‘other’ so called ‘short stringers’ were moves straight out of the populist handbook. It didn’t take a great leap of imagination to see how this could and would happen.

People would be judged on the measure of their string, doors would become closed to them, they would be discriminated against, lose health insurance, and be barred from following their dreams.

I could also easily see how those with a long string would live their lives taking unnecessary risks, knowing that a long life was guaranteed but not accounting for the fact that they could and would be seriously injured – I could see the tabloid headlines.

As the world struggles to come terms with the new order, some of the characters forget that before the arrival of the boxes, they were willing to take a chance on life. Would pledge themselves to each other without knowing how long they’d get together, would jump into an unknown future and take a risk.

For some, the thought of future heartbreak and grief seems too much to deal with. Others accept that it was always part of the deal when it comes to falling in love…the strings don’t change that.

Se il per sempre non esiste lo inventeremo noi

If forever doesn’t exist, we’ll invent it for ourselves” Nikki Erlick 

The Measure is filled with moments of hope too. It shows how people can and always will come together to fight injustice. 

It shows us that people whose lives are all too brief always have a huge impact on those around them and sometimes far beyond that.

There are people who take comfort from the strings and knowing. 

It allows them to live a life without regrets, it gives them a chance to do everything they want to, it allows them to make sure everything is in order and crucially, gives them time to say goodbye. 

As naturally curious as I am, there is no way in hell I’d look at my string. 

I could imagine it dictating too much of my life, taking decisions out of my hands, leaving me feeling like I had countdown clock above my head; that does not sound like fun or freeing to me.

However, one of the prevailing messages from this book isn’t about how long your string is, it’s what you do with it that counts. 

Tomorrow is promised to no one, we don’t know what’s around the corner so we should live as though we’ve been given a short string

A good life isn’t measured by longevity (though I’d like long one), it’s measured by how you choose to spend the time you’ve been given. This book will remind you of that and that is a gift.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Measure by Nikki Erlick Leave a comment

  1. This seems like it brought up some really serious questions. What a fascinating exploration…and thank goodness this isn’t a decision I would have to make because I am stressing just considering this concept.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing review! I absolutely love the sound of this one, I love books which make you think and the string concept is so interesting. I think what you said at the end sums it up perfectly – we should all live as though we’re a short string because nothing in life is ever guaranteed. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this xx

    Liked by 1 person

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