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The Time Traveler's Wife
Is it a little creepy to think that you met the love of your life when you were 5 and he was over 30? Not only that, you hung out together when he was often naked? I know how nifty it would be to hang with my husband out in the yard having picnics and talking about kindergarten homework when he was in the buff.
Okay, so maybe that sounds a little molester-ish, this early in the review. It just amused me to put it that way.
I suppose I could have started off with the bit where a guy blows himself and gets caught by his dad. But I didn’t want to do that ‘cause I’m still not sure he actually did it. Maybe he gave himself a handjob. Entirely unsure.
Okay, enough with the scandalous teases. A lot of people have read this book already but since I’m currently not finished with any of the four other books I have going right now, I had to pull from the past to find something to talk about.
What I came up with is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. What a book this is! I’ve read it three times now and a lot continued to confuse me until I got through it the 2nd time.
I grabbed this book for this week ‘cause I was just reading that the 2008 release of the film will have Rachel McAdams of The Notebook, Red Eye and Wedding Crashers is slated to play Claire and Eric Bana, of Black Hawk Down, Munich and Troy is playing Henry. After finding this out I kept thinking “huh” and then “huh” again.
See, Clare is a redheaded paper maker who comes from a wealthy WASP-type family. Henry is a skinny librarian who is often starving and breaking into Army surplus stores for clothing. They are both pretty much hippies with eclectic tastes in music. Lots of Iggy Pop, Dead Kennedys, Violent Femmes, and Clash.
I’m now concerned that Hollywood is going to turn this wonderful book into a wannabe romance akin to The Notebook. Which, no, don’t, please. Not that there isn’t romance. There is. Epic. But there’s really tragedy and it’s sci-fi. Hell, it’s TIME TRAVEL! My weakness. (No pirates though.)
Okay, let me get back to the book. Maybe next year when the movie comes out I’ll write about how much it screwed up. Right now it’s about the book. Yes! Okay.
Let me just say right now that I love that Henry is finally the one time traveler I’ve ever read about or seen on a show, wherever, that used the time travel to find out the lottery numbers and no one died and nothing bad happened. They just got money. Which everyone needs, so that’s taken care of. Not that they don’t work, but it’s still nice to not worry about it.
Anyway, Henry DeTamble is an employee at the Newbury Library in Chicago. He spends his time reliving traumatic periods of his life. The night his mother was killed in a car accident. The time his ex-girlfriend committed suicide. He also visits happy times, like meeting Clare when she’s a child. You see, Henry has “Chrono Displacement Disorder”. It’s a genetic disease that’s basically like having epilepsy. It can be set off by stress, fear, or wonky TV signals. When he’s not jumping around through time, he’s going to concerts, cooking, listening to music and reading all the books in the library, including works by Martin Heidegger. Being chrono-challenged and living outside the norm, makes one contemplate things like religion and philosophy and science. Heidegger was the natural choice.
Clare Abshire is about 8 years younger than Henry and she meets him for the first time when she is 6. However, Henry meets her for the first time when she is 20. Confused? Well. Henry time-travels to Clare for the first time when he’s already in his 30’s. When we first meet Clare, she’s a student at the School of the Art Institute and she’s a sculptor and paper maker. Very artsy. Henry describes her as akin to a Botticelli with a tiny geisha mouth, long red hair, and so pale she resembles a waxwork.
I love the way this story is written. It’s from the perspective of both Clare and Henry. Different paragraphs by each character and time-stamped so we know when they are and how old they are. That was a new experience for me. On the other hand, I had to flip back and forth for parts to see if they lined up and who was where.
The way time travel is approached in this setting is that everything has already happened and no matter what a person does, nothing will ever change. So Henry will never stop his ex-girlfriend from killing himself, and he won’t ever stop the car accident. Sort of sad really. Everything being static, over before you’ve experienced it really. On the other hand, it’s like Henry will never die. Not really. But take that a step further to the time when Henry lands into a year where Clare is gone, his friends are gone.
Overall, this book, to me, was just heartbreaking. Sure, there was some funny times, and I wanted to know what happened next. But in the beginning you already know the end, because it’s already occurred.
This is one of those books that I read over and over, hoping that the ending will change, or the middle. I want to discover a happier ending. This book is so bittersweet that it just tears my heart out.
I freely admit that this book made me bawl. I am one of those forever hopeful saps who never gives up on people, so this book got to me hard. But here’s the thing; I have recommended this book to men and I’ve been told, after they finish reading, that they too choked up and quite possibly shed a tear. I won’t be revealing their names however, as I’m keeping that info for possible future blackmail.
This book is no great literature type situation, but it’s also not just a mind candy beach read.
This book has every shade of emotion and challenge. It’s about a love to conquer time, as hokey as that sounds. It’s about a marriage and friendship, it’s about attempting to have it all even though you already know how it ends.
A big part of the relationship is whether they should have children. Is it even possible? What if a child ends up with the genetic disorder? Hell, will it time travel right out of the womb in some sort of odd cosmic miscarriage?
In the end, they do successfully procreate and have a daughter, Alba. Yes, she is also chrono-challenged. I don’t want to tell you too much, but there’s a moment when she’s on a school field trip and Henry pops up there and she runs over to him, and they call Clare on the phone. It kills me even thinking about it now.
This sort of book might make you ponder past relationships. If you knew in the beginning pretty much everything that happens, all the fights and challenges and the break up, would you do it anyway? Is love stronger than the fear of disappearing? At one point, both Clare and Henry were worried that the stress of getting married would mean Henry might POOF right out of the ceremony.
Couple all of the emotion with the fact that whenever Henry time travels, he ends up naked and barefoot with no money or ID on him. So he’s instantly a criminal with expertise in breaking & entering and robbery. There is so much fear in this story. Clare afraid Henry will disappear and never return. Henry afraid that the next time he lands somewhere, it’ll be the time he freezes to death or can’t call himself on the phone to come get him, or just get arrested. But still they hope.
An issue I had with this book were the supporting characters. The friends. The landlady. Seriously, how many people in your life could you say, “hey, I time travel all the time and I can’t really control it” and have them respond with, “oh, okay, neato” and just continue on like you only said the coffee was hot or the sky was blue? A large lack of incredulity here. No real disbelief. Just an Asian landlady who always had extra clothing around for when Henry would appear, and friends who took Henry at his word and then saw him around town at various ages and sorta just moved on. That struck me as a bit bizarre.
I loved this book. There is so much longing and desperation in it, coupled with just trying to get through day-to-day existence and what to have for dinner, that it ends up being a decent balance. Romantic sci-fi I suppose it could be classified as. This is how love is supposed to be, the ability to cope and adapt and hold on and hope. Never giving up. No matter what; even with all the human quirks and flaws. And having that love returned. Even the deep love Henry’s father has for his own wife (even after her death) is filled with such passion and yearning that you can’t help but be affected by it.
“Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you.”
Or it might not. I could just be jonesing for a Hallmark Channel movie.
Kristine really is jonesing for Lifetime Channel movie