Eleven Review
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We’ve all heard about the Butterfly Effect—the theory that just one flap of a butterfly’s wings can eventually bring about a tornado in Texas or a tsunami in Japan. But, in Mark Watson’s novel, Eleven, it isn’t an action that has such an enormous consequence—it’s the lack of action.

Since leaving Australia and moving to London five years ago, Xavier Ireland has kept everyone else at an arm’s length. He rarely talks to his family. He’s avoided relationships with women. And his only friend is Murray, his awkward, stuttering colleague. Even as the host of a late-night radio show, doling out advice to the lonely insomniacs who call in to talk about their failures and disappointments, he’s able to hide behind his microphone and keep his distance, believing that his non-involvement will keep him from hurting anyone.

One day, though, Xavier sees a boy being bullied, and he makes the choice to walk away, setting off a chain reaction that affects the lives of several of his fellow Londoners—a restaurant critic, a lonely teenager, a disgruntled therapist, and others.

Meanwhile, an unexpected new relationship makes Xavier take a look back on the events that changed his own life.

Eleven is a cleverly-plotted novel that lightly weaves its way through the lives of loads of Londoners. Watson branches the story out to introduce numerous characters along the way—more than just the eleven that the book’s title suggests. But he does so in a way that allows readers to get to know the supporting characters without losing sight of the main character. After all, the real story is about Xavier’s journey—and devoting too much time to too many other characters would weaken that story. So, instead of having their own fully-developed subplots, these characters are more like asides—footnotes to subtly remind the reader of the consequences of Xavier’s decisions. Watson checks in with them from time to time, to show how their stories progress, but the visits are generally brief enough that they don’t feel like a distraction.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the main character is a strong one. Xavier is a fascinating character with a mysterious past—one that Watson reveals gradually, allowing readers to speculate about what could have happened to make him run to London to escape the memories.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Eleven, though, is that it’s thought-provoking without getting too heavy or preachy. There’s definitely a lesson to be learned through all of this, but Watson doesn’t shove the lesson down your throat. Instead, he tells an enjoyable—and sometimes even funny—story and lets the message sink in on its own. It’s an entertaining novel that’s sure to make you think about the effects that your decisions (and even your indecision) have on those around you.

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