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Before you pick up the Read With Jenna book club pick for July, Jenna Bush Hager has a fair warning for readers: Don't finish the book on an airplane.
"It is a beautiful book that you may need a Kleenex for," said Jenna, who said she cried in her airplane seat while reading the novel. "I think people thought I needed serious help."
For July, the book club is diving into "The Measure" by Nikki Erlick.
In the book, the world changes on what seems to be a regular day in March. That morning, every adult across the world wakes up to a wooden box on their doorstep. Inside is a string that reveals the length of a person's life. And there's no outrunning the string, as the book's rotating set of characters find out.
"It sounds ominous in many ways but actually, it is about love and how we choose to spend out days," says Jenna, "I think it will make everyone feel immense gratitude for the beautiful little moments."
For the author, the book's premise came from a place of deep curiosity about fate. After struggling with anxiety, Erlick told TODAY she wanted to write a book that answered the question of how much control we have over our lives.
"I wanted to see if I could write a book about fate, which was like a big complex topic and was trying to figure out a window into it," she said.
While musing on the concept, Erlick remembered an image from Greek mythology (and the movie "Hercules").
"One day, I remembered the ancient Greek vision of fate and the mythology around fate, and that they believed in these three fates who would spin the threads of life on their spindle and kind of measure out the time that we would each receive. Just like a lightning bolt, (I thought), 'What if we could see these strings?" Erlick said.
Using rotating perspectives, the novel takes a character-driven approach to a number of philosophical questions. Namely, would you wish to know how much time you have on earth — and, if so, what would you do with the knowledge? All the book's characters arrive at different answers. Likely, so will readers.
Jenna said, "After my husband and I read it, we had a long conversation about our life. I think it will lead people to really think about how they live."
"I think it will lead people to really think about how they live."
The debut novelist hopes this book inspires empathy as readers discover the value in every life, regardless of its length.
"I really hope that the main takeaway is that we can all measure our lives in our own way," said Erlick.
Jenna Bush Hager said, "I know it sounds like a book about death but really it’s a book about how we choose to live."
For more book recommendations, check out:
- Read With Jenna Jr.: See all 27 books on the kid-friendly reading list
- R.L. Stine on 30 years of ‘Goosebumps’ and how he almost never wrote scary kids’ book
- All of Jenna Bush Hager's book club picks