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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife

Recommended: The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

Before my latest foray into the romance genre, perhaps the closest I'd come to reading a romance novel was when I read The Time Traveler's Wife. I don't write this because it had the trappings of a romance novel, because it doesn't. Rather, I write it because it's a love story.

Henry DeTamble time travels inadvertently. He has no control over when he travels, or to where or when he will appear, or for how long he will stay. However, his travels have a pattern to them. They tend to focus around key events and people in his life. Therefore, it's no surprise that Henry often time travels to see his wife, Clare Abshire. These travels include points in Clare's life, including her childhood, before Henry's and her original meeting in "normal" time. The story jumps around, but progresses naturally, and we get to experience their twisted and crazy love story on a time frame that reaches from their childhoods into middle and old age.

Clare and Henry are easy to like, people you want to see happy. Their story is set close to the present, and seasoned with pop culture references that will surely date it, but these references add a distinct flavor. Though the time-traveling premise is sci-fi, the book uses it to explore issues that most sci-fi books do not, including those relating to marriage and fatherhood.

The book affected me. I read it three years ago, while visiting my wife's family for Christmas in San Francisco. I distinctly remember my visit to Alcatraz the day after I finished the book. I wandered off from the family, and as I explored the island, my mind kept jumping back and forth between envisioning life in the prison, and this story. I found hidden places that the rest of the tourists did not bother to find, beautiful places on the island that the guided tour missed. The Time Traveler's Wife got me thinking big thoughts on that little stroll, thoughts on causality, inevitability, and on how time changes each of us. I could expand on these themes here, but I'll let the book do it instead.

The Time Traveler's Wife is a worthy read. It visits a much-toured concept of sci-fi, that of time travel, but it takes us to some of those hidden places that we might have missed if we'd stuck to the usual route with the rest of the tourists.

4 comments:

chrisd said...

Oh! Perhaps that's why you're thinking of family.

Yes, family. The place where you get the screw up your children and fantastize about what they're going to say about you when they're older.

Billy Goat said...

I'm thinking of family because I'm a new dad to a 6-month-old son. Every year around the holidays I get a bit sentimental as well, visiting extended family and all. Maybe this has something to do with it as well, but family's on my mind often nowadays, as I try to do the best I can at being a father.

As for screwing up our children... well, I suppose that's bound to happen. However, I hope we can give them the tools and inspiration to patch up their character flaws and forgive themselves (and us) for having them in the first place. :)

avidbookreader said...

I loved this book. I am hoping she writes something I can read soon. I didn't read her illustrated novel that came out after TTW, that she'd been working on for years.

Keishon

Billy Goat said...

An illustrated novel, huh? I will have to look that up. I'm looking forward to reading other books by her as well.