The time traveler’s wife

I don’t always have first crack at a new book. A day or two before new books are put out, they appear on a cart in the work room behind the circ desk so the staff can look them over.

They’re already wrapped, labelled, stickered, stamped and bar-coded, so they’re no longer virginal, but still, they’re unread, ready and waiting for the thousands of hands through which they’ll pass.

Sometimes something strikes me and I’ll run it under the scanner, select “hold”, follow it with my card. Occassionllly I’m first on the hold list when the book is released into circ, most often though, other staff or patrons have beat me to it.

Like this past week, Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child appeared on the cart. I got it first. It was a bit of a disappointment, but still it was a serviceable read.

The latest in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (what’s he up to now, number 173?) was seriously weird. No, not a comment on the book. I can’t read King, it adversely affects my sleep, so I don’t even crack the covers. But when Dark Tower 857 (or whatever) showed up, I jumped onto Amazon and shot Jeffrey a copy. Anyway, the next day, Dark Tower 2,439 was on the cart to be shelved.

Shelved? A brand, new King? Shurly shome mishtake!

Scratching my head, I placed it prominently on the New Fiction shelf, where it sat for three days, untouched. Three fucking days! Finally someone checked it out and I haven’t seen it since. Probably won’t for a long time. I still only see the previous one once in a blue moon.

Other books, I pass on when I first see them. Maybe I don’t have the time, or I already have a dozen or two checked-out or I mentally file it on the “maybe one of these days” list.

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is one such book. It entered circ in our branch on September 11, 2003. I figured the when it was ready to have me read it, it would somehow tell me so when it appeared on my cart. I’ve seen it maybe twice since. It’s always checked-out.

Wednesday it appeared on my cart, announced, “It’s time,” and I obediently took it to the check-out desk with my card.

It is a wonderful book. That is my very highest, tippy-top rating. Buy, it, borrow it, steal it. Just read it. From the flyleaf:

Audrey Niffenegger’s innovative debut, The Time Traveller’s Wife, is the story of of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, and adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry was thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Dispacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveller’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare’s marriage and their passionate love for each other, as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals—steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

It’s a lot easier to follow than you might think. The chapters are all dated, something like Saturday, October 27, 1984 (Clare is 13, Henry is 43), or where Henry visits with his once and future self, Saturday, December 22, 1991 (Henry is 28 and 33). It’s occasionally even weirder—chapters like Thursday, December 28, 2000 (Henry is 33, and 37, Clare is 29) come to mind.

Still, Niffenegger knits it all together with such care and craft that the actual read is no more difficult than any other novel. You don’t need a scorecard, and after the first couple of chapters you just sort of accept that what appear to be plot holes will be filled in eventually.

All things in the fullness of time.

One thing this novel is not is science-fiction or even speculative fiction. Yes, the time travel aspect has to be explained away somehow, and it’s actually done with much more grace and ease and than others that employ the literary device, (Octavia Butler’s Kindred comes to mind). Another thing it’s not is a pulp romance novel.

What this book is, is a fairly literary story of love over lifetimes. It’s like the author was inspired by one of those stupid holiday fragrance commercials—the one where she breathes, “I have always loved you” and he replies “I will love you forever”—and then decided, well, if we take out all the garbage, how would that work?

Very well indeed.

One Response to “The time traveler’s wife”

  1. Von Says:

    I’m reading it now. Oh, what a love story. deep sigh