Eldon's job is to keep people from spending time in his hometown of Madison. See, the people of Madison have a big secret and they don't want anyone hanging around too long so Eldon's job at the gas station is to make sure Madison sounds way too boring to visit. The town secret is that everyone is granted one wish that magically comes true on his or her 18th birthday. Most people know exactly what they want to wish for but Eldon's birthday is just a couple of months away and he isn't sure. In an effort to figure it out Eldon starts asking others about their wishes and finds that most of them didn't turn out as expected. Wishing almost seems to be more of a curse. As his day draws nearer he has the hopes and expectations of several people weighing on him without any clear idea of what he plans to do.
This is such a great premise and I started the book full of voyeurism, expecting to see the wreck that comes from an ill thought out wish. All of that is there but in such a drawn out, dull way that it was often a struggle to get through the book. The chapters where we hear about the wishes are the best as you see how things can backfire even if you have good intentions to start with. Other than that, I was suffused with the grim reality of a hot desert town full of people living with their regrets and that does not make for an enjoyable read. All of this depression leads up to Eldon finally deciding on his wish which, to me, was just as selfish as he had exhibited himself to be up until that point. Luckily, others pointed this out to him so at least there is some kind of comeuppance, but it's too little, too late.