The Time Traveler’s Wife

Let me start by saying, “wow!” It is so rare to encounter any real work of originality. It seems that most books and movies these days are just old hacks and rewrites of earlier stories told usually, better in the original. Not so with Audrey Niffenegger’s book. This story is truly something new and something to be beheld.

In essence this book is a love story, but it is the most unconventional love story I’ve ever read. It is the story of Henry and Clare DeTamble, and Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire, and Henry DeTamble again. Henry suffers from a rare genetic disease called “Chrono-Imparement” that hinders his ability to remain in the present. Henry is an inadvertent and sometimes unwilling time traveler.

I read those words and I hear myself saying, “No, that’s not right. That makes it seem like this is a science fiction book and it just isn’t.” But there is no escaping the fact that Henry does, in fact, jump back and forth in time and encounter not only earlier and later versions of himself, but also of his wife. It seems that Henry’s destinations are frequently determined by his subconscious as on the occasions when he revisits the moment of the horrible car accident that changed his life forever or as when he is repeatedly drawn to the child who will become his wife in the future. His attacks of temporal fluidity strike most often in moments of extreme stress or, like epilepsy, can be triggered by bright flashing or flickering lights.

Henry first meets Clare Abshire when she is six years old and he is perhaps 40. He hands her a list of dates when he will appear to her again and for years they meet only in Clare’s present and Henry’s future. The Henry DeTamble who lives contemporaneously with Clare is as of yet unaware of her existence. Their first meeting in the present (for both of them) is when Clare is 20 and Henry is 28. This is the opening chapter of the book, and I have to admit, I was hooked from there on through.

I am completely enthralled with this book. In fact, I just finished it and am contemplating rereading it already. At first, it is a little difficult to get into the swing of things because each chapter requires a small bit of math and contemplation to see how it will fit temporally with the story elements thus far portrayed, but after a few chapters I found myself fully accepting the fact that an event about which I had already read had not yet taken place, or that at the wedding between Henry and Clare, when Clare was 21 and Henry should have been 29, was between Clare and a forty year old version of Henry.

Each chapter is narrated by either Henry or Clare and as the book goes on the stories tend to be told from both perspectives, as each person experiences them. The general narrative time line follows the linear pattern of Clare’s life, with some obvious and unavoidable interruptions and displaced time.

In general I thought this was a fantastic read.  the story line is original, the writing is artful and the characters are people you can really care about.  I’d recommend this book to anyone, in fact I already recommended it to two different people before I had even finished reading it.

Next up: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. (No,  I’m not only reading female authors, it just so happens that my last trip to the bookstore I bought only women’s works.)


~ by CableGirl on Wednesday, June 13, 2007.

9 Responses to “The Time Traveler’s Wife”

  1. its been there on my to read list for a long time, After reading your review, I guess I need to buy this over the weekend.

  2. eeee, joy luck club! I tearing up just thinking about it! lol

  3. Rambler – go out and get it. You won’t be disappointed. Then let me know what you think.

    Heather – I saw the movie eons ago and I always thought that I’d like to read the book, I mean, seriously, what move is ever better than the book? I just never got around to it. Can’t wait to read it now. Did you ever read the Tim Traveler’s Wife? If not, go get it. It would totally appeal to you. 🙂

  4. i’ve been meaning to get that book – guess that’s motivation. check out the book thief. i’m reading it now – if you like original works, this one is great. also: ireland by frank delaney, snow flower and the secret fan, getting mother’s body, life of pi, the shadow of the wind and middlesex. i also re-read to kill a mockingbird pre-zach and was amazed i hadn’t read it again sooner.

  5. Hey Becky! 😉

  6. Becky – if you had to choose one to recommend, which would it be? I’m not too good at reading 5 books at once. lol

  7. i’d say either shadow of the wind or middlesex (in that order). both very different but very entertaining. there’s another one i really want to recommend but i can’t for the life of me remember the name…and i can’t find it in my bookshelf. oh well.

    hey there feather!!! how’s vegas treating you?

  8. One of my favorite books ever. Unfortanately I lent out my copy to a coworker and she got fired soon after…no more Time Travelers Wife. 😦

    I could buy a new copy, but my old copy was a hardcover I bought for less than $5.

  9. I just had to check out your book list because I love to read. And this is one of my favorite books ever! Did you know they are filming a movie of it too? Eric Bana is Henry and Rachel McAdams is Clare. Can’t wait for it to come out!

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