I’m not sure how I feel about this book by Matt Haig. I read it for my book club and I usually enjoy books more after discussing them with my book club, but this time I think I liked it less after our discussion. I actually really enjoyed it while I was reading it. I thought it was fun and fast paced and really easy to read.
The main character, Tom Hazard, was born in England in the 1500s and has spent the past 400 years traveling the world, hob nobbing with all sorts of famous people, and trying to hide the fact that he ages very, very slowly. It’s a very rare condition, but apparently he’s not the only to have it. The problem is, when he finally gets diagnosed in the 1800s, the doctor who diagnosed him suddenly ends up dead. The same thing happened back in the 1500s when his mom was accused of being a witch and making deals with the devil to keep her son young.
So Tom left his family and fell in love with a young woman. They got married and had a kid together, but he started to draw attention to them and put his family in danger, so he left, promising his daughter he’d return. By the time he finds his wife again, she’s dying of the plague (his condition also appears to come with an impressive immune system, which is convenient) and she tells him their daughter took off because she was “like him.”
Fast forward to the present day and Tom has found a sort of community of people who are also “like him.” The organization works very hard to keep their existence a secret. When they find someone who’s like them, they actively recruit them to the organization, with the implication being that it’s a join-or-die sort of thing. Membership means moving every eight years and the organization helps them get everything they need (new names, occupations, etc.) to help them accomplish that. There’s never any mention of members paying dues or anything so it’s unclear how they organization is able to fund all this. The guy who leads it all has been around a few centuries longer than Tom and apparently made a killing in the tulip craze, so I guess he’s funding it all?
It’s unclear how many members the organization has since it works to keep everyone separated. They use their members to recruit other members, but after that they’re discouraged from having contact with each other, presumably for their own protection.
The organization’s MO is fear mongering and Tom falls for it hook line and sinker, largely because he’s still haunted by the fact that his mother was targeted by ignorant people who guessed that he was different from themselves. But the end of the book has a pretty significant twist that reveals the organization for being more selfishly motivated than it wants people to believe and that it will stop at nothing to achieve its own goals.
Ultimately, Tom learns to stop worrying about the future and just live in the moment, which is great, but I feel like that’s kind of a tired slogan at this point. Isn’t that what we’re always being told? How did it take you 400 years to figure that out?
What did you guys read this week? Anything else that was fun, but ultimately implausible?