Author: Andrew Sean Greer
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Max Tivoli is different from you and me. His life highlights the complaint of the aged: Oh, if I only knew then what I know now. The elderly, rocking in chairs, nodding to a beat that exists only in their own minds, remember the mistakes made when they were young. When they didn't know better.
Max Tivoli, born in 1871, emerged from the womb (after a few uncomfortable years as a wrinkled, ugly infant) to be a man of 70 years old. His stoop was that of an old man. He shuffled through halls, confused. His hands, wrinkled, massaged arthritic knees. Born at the age of 70, he knows just when he shall die--1941. A golden pendant around his neck reminds him of this every day.
It is a secret, to age in reverse, to be blessed and cursed with the opposite of time. Each year, he becomes less impaired, more spritely, more eager to look at the sun like the gift it is.
But Max Tivoli is a monster. If anyone knew his secret...
As a boy of 14 (appearing, for all the world, like a man in his late 50s), Max Tivoli met the love of his life. Alice was sunshine and light and youth and beauty and pure innocence. Max, the picture of an old man.
Easily a science fiction parable, this book is truly a story of love and of loss.
Greer wastes no word, each one placed with precision to pull the reader into something bigger than the world, bigger than the person. It is as if while reading this book, you, too, are a monster. When you see for yourself that your own actions are not as important as who you appear to be. You hurt, deep in places you'd forgotten about, when Max loses Alice once. Then twice. And a third time, each time as a new man, one she never knew.
Released in 2004, it leads my selection of the best books of the year, perhaps among the best released in this century.