Sometimes, I time travel. It’s no secret and it doesn’t involve any special ability. I guarantee you do it too. After all, how often do you find yourself—at work, on the train, out walking—and instead of being fully present where your feet are, your mind is moments, months, years behind or ahead of where you are in time. Last week, I finished The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and I’ve been haunted by it. I’m going out on a limb here to say it might make the list of my top 20 favorite books (although I have no actual list). I just can’t stop thinking about time travelling and how I think we do it all the time, just not physically.
Part of being human, as opposed to being some sort of other animal, is the blessing and curse of having a memory. It is so easy to let our minds wander, to time travel. When work is a little boring or you miss someone who is no longer in your life, when you hear a song or see a sight that is tied to a memory, down the rabbit hole you go. It can’t be healthy to live in the past, but it sure is lovely to transport yourself from time to time. All that being said, after reading this book and learning about Henry and Clare’s experiences, I wouldn’t want to physically go back. I’ll settle for the ability I already have.
If you haven’t read Time Traveler’s Wife, what are you waiting for? If you are anything like me, perhaps you heard a lot of hype and are hesitant (I sometimes purposefully don’t read books that are super popular and have a lot of hype around them). But then my mom read the book and raved about it and sent me back to the Bronx with it from one of my trips between CT and NY. It sat on my shelf for a bit while I took care of book club related books.
This book is just a great, unique story. Henry has the ability to travel through time (but not necessarily when he wants to) and Clare is his wife who must wait for him when he is gone. They meet when she is young and he is old—he spends much of his married life with her time travelling to the past to meet her as a young girl. This means that when she is 18 and he is 20 she knows him and loves him deeply, but he knows nothing about her because he has not met her yet in the present (only when he is in his 30s does he meet her as a girl).
Ok, stay with me here! My mother’s advice to me: immediately suspend your sense of disbelief and do not waste time questioning why or how Henry can time travel, just jump right in. Please heed that advice. I have talked with others who have read this book and many had difficulty with the how’s and why’s.
As for some surface aspects of the book, I love the quotes about love and time that mark beginning of each new section of the book. I loved figuring out the dates of the time travel vs. actual time and the ages of Henry and Clare—I’ve heard that some people didn’t like that or found it confusing. I thought it kept things interesting and I found it to be a sort of enjoyable puzzle to solve. I also enjoyed the settings. I haven’t been to Chicago but I felt transported there. I’ve also never been to Michigan but I felt as though I knew Clare’s family home and the land surrounding it.
Also, Niffenegger’s method of writing the story from both Clare and Henry’s points of view was fantastic. I felt that the characters were complex and deep and I appreciated the back and forth—hearing the story from a male and female voice. I was just amazed at Niffenegger’s ability to write so convincingly through both voices.
This book is so many things—part science fiction, part tragedy, part mystery—but above all, it is a love story. But it isn’t a mushy-gusy or unrealistic kind of love (ok, so except for the fact that Clare meets Henry when she is in grade school and he somehow travels through time). Their love is real and intense. It is a kind of love that I believe only grows out of the struggles and difficulties partners experience in relationships. Niffenegger’s portrayal of Clare and Henry’s love does not gloss over the gritty reality of their married life; yet it is this grittiness that makes their love beautiful, deep, and true.
Please go out and read this book! You won’t be disappointed, I promise.