Warning: this review contains a few mild spoilers.
Jack is an intelligent, well-liked young man in his early 20s, working in his father's business while he decides what do to with his life. On the night he takes his best friend, Travis, out for a birthday dinner, driving through pouring rain, his car is hit by a truck. Rescue workers extricate Travis and Jack from the truck and rush them to the hospital.
We flash forward to the year 2040. Seventy-five-year-old Jack, now a world leader, is being interviewed about the pivotal events in his life, beginning with that rainy night. His accident seems to have triggered a domino effect. Enervated by his near-death experience, he decides to plunge head-long into life, beginning with a trip to Italy. There he meets the love of his life. This leads to further events which will shape his future, including adopting a beautiful child, from Mexico, with a troubled past and surviving an earthquake. Ultimately he has the opportunity to change the world.
I began this novel knowing little about it, and I was pleasantly surprised by the futuristic element. As we're guided through Jack's life, we get a peek at important world events that haven't yet occurred.
This book is structured a bit like a film. It's fast paced and lean, jumping from one major life event to another, the plot framed in the interview about Jack's life. The scenes showing us these crucial events are vivid and detailed. Overall, the description and character development in the novel is rather spare, but the details describing people and places are well chosen and effective. And there are some beautifully written, wonderfully vivid scenes.
Here are a few snippets:
(in Venice) The buildings flanking the canal were centuries old and very colorful. Many were painted red, orange, or pink. The water had a slight sewer-like smell to it, but both Jack and Maggy had become accustomed to it. Small boats and gondolas tied to docking posts gently swayed in the mild current.
(The aftermath of an earthquake, with survivors returning from a subway station) The brown dust particles glowed like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The dust seemed to be strongest on the second level as the air soon began to thin during the ascent as the sky brightened with the afternoon sun ... crowds began to form on each end of the station. Onlookers and rubberneckers gathered around the roped off area. Many of these were people were lured to an accident or crime scene, just to get a peek at the poor, unfortunate victim or the criminal mastermind being hauled away in cuffs. The people probably didn’t know what they were looking at, but knew with the police and rescue units around, something exciting was going on. As Jack and the others made their way to the top, the sun was blinding. Each of them shaded their eyes with their arms to allow their eyes to adjust. It had been almost forty-eight hours since any on them had breathed fresh air or felt the sun on their skin.The descriptions of some major events in the story, including the one reflected in the excerpt above, are vivid and absorbing. I found the circumstances in which Jack adopted his daughter quite moving. This novel also has some speculative political elements, that closely reflect many of the political events we face today, that will intrigue many readers. Just to pique your curiosity a bit further, there is also a "twist," which I guessed fairly early in the novel. This had me chomping at the bit to finish the novel -- which I did in one sitting -- eager to find out whether I was right. :-)
While this is different from the slower, more literary fiction to which I usually gravitate, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and review this well-crafted, articulate, and fast-paced novel. It's a unique, absorbing story that defies being put into a genre. It explores the turning points in life that shape who we become. And like the film It's a Wonderful Life, it speaks volumes about the tremendous impact one person's life can have.
Other Reviews: I'd Rather Be Reading at the Beach; Minding Spot; She Treads Softly; Over Cups of Coffee; A Book Lover's Library; Ordinary Girlz Book Reviews; Dr. Bill's Book Bazaar; Book Blogger Stop