It seems every January I read a book that I absolutely love and can’t put down.
Two years ago, I declared Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter my book of the year (regular readers will know it was just pipped to the post by A Little Life), and last year Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven retained the book of the year post right through to the end of the year.
The one for 2017 is The One by John Marrs, and while I’m stopping short of prematurely crowning it my book of the year, it is certainly a contender.
The One is set in a world where your soul mate can be determined through a DNA test. A company has discovered the gene and is charging people for the contact details of the loves of their lives – which is a wonderful business model.
The whole thing hinges on your partner having taken the test, however, and while some people get a result in a matter of days, others wait for weeks and months, even years.
We follow five very different people, all of whom have different reasons for taking the test.
Mandy is just getting over the break-up of her marriage; Christopher is a psychopath who took the test on a whim; Jade is a young girl looking for the love of her life; Nick is encouraged to take the test by his fiancée prior to their wedding; Ellie is a high powered businesswoman who seems to have no time for love in her life.
The book is constructed so that we get a small chapter (and I mean small, some are only two or three pages long) from each character’s view point, before moving on to the next. This makes it an incredibly easy read, because if you find any character dragging, it’s ok, because another one will be along soon.
Having said that, because of this it is a little difficult to invest in the characters. On consideration, however, the writer has done a good job of keeping erroneous detail out of those chapters. They’re packed full with detail and not a single word is wasted.
Each story is largely unrelated, although they do follow a similar theme, and brush up against each other occasionally. They all take very different paths and each one of them is quite believable, despite some moments that are a little larger than life.
I looked forward to reading this each time I picked it up, and I found myself staying up late on more than one occasion to just read a little bit more. Despite a few moments towards the end, it did lack a bit of emotional punch, although they were some truly gasp out loud moments.
This is one of those books that I would recommend to almost anyone. People who don’t read very often will find it accessible, while voracious readers will be able to consume quickly, but find enough intrigue and thought provoking questions to help whet their appetite.
I’d love to explore some of the stories a bit deeper (particularly Nick and Christopher’s) – and can’t help but feel this would make a great television series – think Tuesday night anthology series like The Syndicate or similar and you’ll get the idea.
Is The One the one for 2017? I’d like a bit more of an emotional impact, so I’m going to hold off for not, but it is certainly one of the ones.
The One by John Marrs is published in May by Del Rey