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.
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