Book review: ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’
Vail CO, Colorado
In her remarkable debut novel, Audrey Niffenegger has created a unique and interesting perspective on time travel, by using a love story as the axis. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is hardly a science-fiction tour of the space-time continuum, but a passionate tale of two people who must live with this curse as part of their daily lives.
The story is told through first-person narration from both principal characters, Henry and Clare. Each section begins with the date and the ages of Clare and Henry, and sometimes multiple ages for Henry when more than one “version” of him is present (Yes, two Henrys can be in the room at once, and several might appear in a single chapter.) This enables the reader to witness their lives from their respective viewpoints ” to see Clare’s fear every time Henry disappears, or how his past and future actions affect her life in real time, and also to watch Henry as he copes with his “illness” while trying to stay safe and keep the secrets that he can’t reveal to anyone but Clare.
The book progresses chronologically, anchored by Clare, although Henry is constantly jumping to and from different times in both their lives. The oddity of Henry and Clare’s chronological entanglements are revealed in the fact that Clare first meets Henry when she is six and he is middle-aged. Henry, on the other hand, doesn’t meet Clare until he is in his 20s (It won’t be until later that an older Henry goes back in time to meet young Clare.)
Niffenegger has clearly thought through all the ramifications of time travel, and once the reader accepts that time-traveling is an uncontrollable part of Henry’s life, then none of the novel’s occurrences seem far-fetched or out of character. Whenever Henry is scared or stressed, he simply vanishes, leaving his clothes in a heap on the ground. Wherever he reappears, he shows up without clothing and hungry, which of course leads to all kinds of trouble.
Even with these complications of time travel and its effects on their lives, Henry and Clare are seemingly “normal” people that readers will empathize with, their fears and flaws common to all.
This uncommon novel will make readers laugh, cry and teeter on the edge of their seats as Henry faces the myriad dangers of time travel. Once ensnared in the web of this novel and fully engaged in the characters’ lives, readers cannot help both suffering and rejoicing along with Henry and Clare.
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