Review: Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
From the back cover: Meg Carpenter is broke. Her novel is years overdue. Her cell phone is out of minutes. So when a book called “The Science of Living Forever” lands on her desk, she jumps at the chance to review it, starting on a labyrinthine journey that takes her from mysterious beasts of the moor to forest fairies to ships in bottles, New Age theories of everything from physics to narrative theory, and forces her to ask: Does anyone really want to live forever?
This book is one of those books that is difficult to define – there’s lots of humor, lots of seriousness, and lots of philosophical discussion in this book, mixed together with friendly characters and a winding plot.
Meg is a likable character who is just not happy with her relationship with her depressed, jobless boyfriend Christopher. She’s unhappy that she’s making a living ghost writing middle grade novels instead of the serious, important literary kind. And finally, she’s unhappy because she is on the outs with her best friends and parent figures. After reading the book, she ruminates on the universe and karma and magic, and tests out her theories in her life.
There’s a funny bit – and I’m not being too spoilery because this happens in the first chapter – where her friend Libby is so desperate to keep her husband from finding out about her affair that they brainstorm increasingly preposterous explanations for where she’s been, ending with her pushing her car into the ocean.
It can be a bit much to wade through all the philosophical debate on everlasting life, magic and writing techniques, but it’s couched in dialogue and made easier to swallow in small bits between other events. I rooted for Meg to find what she was looking for, and at the end she may not have exactly what she wanted but was on her way towards finding it.
I give this book 3.5 STACKS.
See you in the STACKS,