The measure : a novel

If you could find out how long you’re going to live, would you want to have that information? If you know that you’ll die in fourteen years, would you still marry or have children?  Would you tell your parents?


What if the person you’re dating snoops and breaks up with you upon discovering that your time is short? What if your employer requires that you disclose your life expectancy?

For the protagonists in Nikki Erlick’s novel, The Measure, these are not hypothetical questions. Each character, as well as every adult throughout the world, receives a small box inscribed with words written in their own language: “The measure of your life lies within.”

Some individuals open their box without hesitation, perhaps regretting that decision later. Others tuck their box away in a closet, never opening it. Those who attempt to burn their box find that the containers are indestructible.

The boxes contain a single string of varying lengths. People are alarmed and perplexed. National and religious leaders weigh in. So do financial and medical experts.


When researchers determine that the length of the string indicates how long the recipient will live, not everyone subscribes to this theory. Not everyone behaves ethically. One country implements policies that others would call draconian.

Some of Erlick’s characters lie about their string status, both for altruistic reasons, and simply out of fear. A political candidate who knows he will live long corners his opponents, insisting that they disclose the length of their string.

Bucket list choices are made ranging from travel, to dedicating oneself to a worthwhile cause, to creating works of art. An individual with a long string strives to stand by her partner whose life will be shorter. Not everyone has that ability.

While the title, The Measure, refers to the length of the strings and the duration of life, the word also applies to Erlick’s writing itself.  She brings together characters whose lives and decisions impact one another in unexpected yet plausible ways.  She tackles grief, fulfillment, kindness, heartlessness, and worry, without overwhelming or overindulging the reader. This first-time novelist expertly constructs a story with just the right measure of alienation and belonging, unity and divisiveness. This is a welcome literary work during these contentiousness times.