Richards’ debut novel explores various weighty questions, such as the definition of a well-lived life.
If you could shave off years from your life and transfer them to someone more “deserving,” would you do it? This is the question that successful 52-year-old tech entrepreneur Scott Northwood ponders shortly after he loses a close friend to a freak accident. Having sold his Silicon Valley company for millions, Scott had settled down to a comfy life in Washington’s Poulsbo—“a town of 8,000 located at the head of a sheltered bay on the western edge of Puget Sound.” As he soon discovers, though, money can’t buy love. Already haunted by a tragic childhood, Scott grows more distraught after his friend’s death forces him to see the arbitrariness of death. What if, Scott wonders out loud, he could have given Danny some of his years? Enter Patrick, an “Enabler,” who can help Scott do just that—give his years away to people in need. It might be too late to save Danny, but Scott, an “Implementer,” is soon able to extend the lives of various “Prospects”—Megan, Max, Jason, Olivia—all deserving people in their own ways. The plot keeps a sharp pace until the middle, which dawdles as one Prospect after the other gets airtime. Eventually, things get complicated when Scott becomes more vested in one Prospect’s outcome as he realizes his own life’s true purpose. In the end, the book poses many morally fraught questions (Isn’t each person’s life worth saving equally? Who can determine the value of a life? Is it wise to really play God?) that are beyond the scope of the novel. Bonus points: the Pacific Northwest is painted with a vibrant, saturated palette.
An intriguing novel that trips over its own existential considerations.