Thursday 1:17 pm
Release Date: May 1, 2016
Every once in a while a book lands on my desk that I’ve never heard of, where the author is not known to me. Sometimes the premise is intriguing, and I crack it open to give it a look.
And sometimes when I do, I find a gem.
Thursday 1:17 pm is one of those rare finds; a book that is so good that I simply cannot put it down. The premise is fairly simple: what would you do if one day, the world around you – all of it- simply stops, suspended in a single moment of time?
That’s what happens to 17 year old Jacob (known as “Duck” to his friends). It’s a beautiful Thursday afternoon – the day before Duck’s 18th birthday, in fact – and the residents of Washington DC are enjoying a mild, sunny early summer day. But Duck is reeling; his mother had just died that morning, mere months after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. The young man is angry and distracted when he steps into the intersection at Jenifer and Wisconsin Avenue, completely unaware that the light has changed and he is directly in the path of a car trying to beat the yellow light.
At first, all he registers is that the music he has been listening to on his phone has stopped. Then he realizes that there is a car bumper mere inches away from him, the driver frozen in place with a look of fear, surprise and confusion on his face. Looking around, Duck sees that everyone around him is also suspended in time: the bike messenger waiting at the curb, the young man with the outstretched arm who appears to have been trying to warn Duck of danger; further away, a food truck vendor is handing a taco to a customer, a homeless man sleeps on a park bench, people are waiting for a bus. All completely still.
As Duck moves through this frozen world, he comes to the realization that it’s more than just people: anything with a motor or a battery or that runs on electricity does not work because no currents are flowing, no sparks are igniting; watches and clockes don’t move forward, no breezes blow, no water flows.
So how does a kid – already reeling from personal tragedy – deal with such a bizarre and inexplicable turn of events? With humor. Not wacky, smart alecky humor, but with a defensive, casual humor that helps to stave off panic and despair – at least for a bit. Author Michael Landweber has created in Duck a believable and likeable young hero, a bright but down to earth kid who foregoes the big questions for the personal ones: how am I going to deal with this, how am I going to keep from going crazy… what the heck?
As he moves from the moment of Thursday 1:17 pm (without being able to keep track of time – even the sun remains suspended in place), Duck fills his “days” first with thoughts of survival, of consequence, and then of untethered purpose. Is there a purpose? He seeks out what used to be those anchors in his life: his friends, his father, places that have familiarity to him, trying to find some clue as to why he is the only one unaffected by the stoppage of time, to seek out some reason for being, even though he knows that all he will encounter is stillness. After all, what else is he supposed to do in this motionless landscape?
Yet, the narrative refuses to linger in the mundane or the maudlin. There is humor, there is freshness, along with the poignancy and the confusion and the frustration. A trip to the mall is both hilarious and touching. Duck’s visit to his institutionalized father is emotional and yet not devastating. The memories evoked in his solitary travels are often crystallized, themselves isolated points in time; his actions are both heroic and ridiculous. And eventually Duck comes to realize that there are consequences to his actions, even if he is the only catalyst and the ultimate collateral.
The writing in Thursday 1:17 pm is affable, even breezy at times, and yet easily slips into tender and even wistful moments, giving them weight without weighing them down. This is a very fast read, and yet one that satisfies both in context and style. I truly, utterly enjoyed this book, and it gave me a lot to ponder, but in a way that was invigorating rather than dismal, despite there being so much isolation in subject and action. I would heartily recommend it to literally every reader, young or old, of any genre or style.
Do yourself a favor, and find yourself a copy of Thursday, 1:17 pm; it is not mere hyperbole to call it a gem of a book. Put simply – it shines.
~ Sharon Browning