James Douglas O’Flaherty (Jimmy) walks outside his house one evening on his way to dinner and is killed when a tree branch falls on his head. The branch would’ve missed him if only he hadn’t returned to his house moments before to turn off a light, which he’d only done because a podcast he had listened to six months earlier about the dire consequences of global warming had inspired him to make a difference. This difference would cost him his life, but it was not the only decision that contributed to his death. Everything he did that day determined the exact sequence of events that led to his death. In fact, everything he did throughout his entire life, including his unlikely birth and conception, contributed to his death.
He only bought the house (with the tree out the front) because he wanted to put solar panels on its roof in a further attempt to address his carbon concerns and become ‘energy self-sufficient’ as he liked to proclaim proudly to his friends. Sadly, Jimmy couldn’t afford the solar panels because of the high mortgage repayments on his house; repayments being made to the bank, which was also his employer, meaning he had a very efficient one transaction life: his wage moving directly from his employer (the bank) to his mortgagor (the same bank) to pay off his home loan which he was unlikely to ever do.
He only worked at the bank because he left his job at the advertising agency after a disasterous advertising campaign for a tined tuna company, in which he suggested they use a school of tuna attending university to promote their product. The mothers were outraged at the humanisation of the tuna and Jimmy was forced to contemplate a new career.
As the book is written in reverse, the results of his decisions are known before the choices that got him there are made apparent, meaning the causes of his mediocrity (and the impending tragedy of his death), slowly emerge like insects after a storm.
Was it fate or the plans of a god (or gods) that led Jimmy on to his inevitable end, or was it just plain old bad luck? Maybe it was both.
At the same time, and interspersed between the general narrative of Jimmy’s life, the book moves forward in time from the Big Bang – 13.8 million years before Jimmy’s death, discussing the big events beyond Jimmy that contributed to the development of life on earth, and thus his existence (and also his untimely death) – these include the formation of solar system, the beginnings of life, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the evolution of humans.
Was the Big Bang caused by a God that blew Himself up with a chemistry set and then hid His hideously scarred face from his creation? Or was it the result of a black hole in another universe eating too many space rocks and exploding through its own verse to create our universe? This will be uncovered in the book, but if you ask the Marthaist out there or those that believe in the True Nature of the Universe, they will tell you it was caused by the fart of a dog named Grimace (pet to Martha) in a galaxy infinitely bigger than ours.