D. M. Green
D.M. Green’s debut novel Jim and the Universe is the kind of inspirational novel that could be a very uplifting find for a young person looking to find their place in the world around them. Eleven year old Jim is filled with anxieties and as he goes into a new school, he finds himself even more unmoored and worried than usual. On his walk home, Jim develops a relationship with Mrs. Florence, an old woman who seems eminently patient and at ease. Of course, Jim is intrigued and soon discovers Mrs. Florence has a kind of magical philosophy.
This philosophy is essentially the concept of positive thinking a la The Secret or any of slew of New Age literature. Green does a very good job of capturing the anxiety of the young boy Jim showing us his emotional development. However, it does seem odd that at no point are any of the events of the story seen as coincidental or the product of ones own work. Instead, ‘the Universe’ delivers miracles, grants magical wishes, to those who master the right way to ask. For those predisposed to magical thinking, this novel will be a charming confirmation of the power of belief, of faith. One could easily substitute ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ for Green’s ‘the Universe’ and doing so would get readers very close to the prosperity gospel.
For skeptical readers, this is certainly not worthwhile and would only be frustrating in its earnestness. It’s important that readers know their own tendencies going in; it will really come down to just how open-minded or, rather, accommodating a reader can be. Yet, Green fills his novel with prayers guiding readers towards a belief that embraces a degree of selflessness and appreciation like in this scene where Jim recounts reaching out to his slightly older brother, “Dear Universe, thank you for helping me share with John the stuff about failures and successes and for John to understand what I mean. I give thanks that you show me how I can do this in the best way.”
However, even though the positive thinking message imbues the action of the story and can’t be ignored, Green has also composed an uplifting coming of age story. Jim, an English boy, is not too different from any American middle school boy. With every interaction between himself, others, and ‘the Universe,’ Jim becomes less and less anxiety-ridden and more confident as well as outgoing. The growth of Jim is a story that will appeal to many young readers.
As such, Jim and the Universe is worth reading if only to give young people a tool or spring board into taking control of creating themselves and finding their place in the world. There are a lot of questions that can be asked of Green’s novel and those questions are worth talking about between young and old. In a way this reflects the last message of the novel by Jim, an echo of what he’s learned from Mrs. Florence and ‘the Universe,’ “you couldn’t have any beginnings if you didn’t have any endings.”
D.M.Green is the author of ‘Jim and the Universe.’ You can follow him on Twitter @JimsDMGreen