I know this much is true: There is something sweepingly melancholic about The Time Traveler’s Wife. Something so primal, something so achingly beautiful but equally haunting.
The story opens with Clare Abshire thinking about the man she met when she was 6 and he was 36. She is in love with him; a man who first visited her when she was a child; yet he will meet her for the first time once she turns 20.
“I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. …. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”
Henry DeTamble is a librarian who has chrono-displament disorder; a disease that tears you away from the normal continuum of time and sends you reeling to either the past or the future. He loves to run, listens to punk, knows his way around the kitchen and he tries not to influence fate in his little jaunts. He also happens to be our long-suffering hero, who wishes nothing more but to stay put to where ever Clare is.
“I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow.”
I was at a lost for words while reading. It was difficult to come to terms with Henry’s curse; that one can be so helpless and in so much danger in any given time and place. But by saying this, even if words escaped me I was bursting with applause. This mostly means, putting the book down several times to find a Kleenex and sudden exclamation of concern, opinion and an occasional “Nooo!” – Usually to people’s surprise. The hero and the heroine lives a sweeping tour de force that one can only be awed in their ability to hold on.
The Time Traveler’s Wife starts a little puzzling since the idea is unique but it is well written that you only need to continue reading to understand. Every time the author indicates a date it is imperative that you take full notice, lest you will get lost in the heaps of details and sudden change of events. If by chance, you allow yourself the blessing of getting swept in the imagination; the story will eventually click into place. Though uncommon, the story is weaved naturally as if we are following a linear narrative. And because we are talking about a man who cannot control his ability to time travel, there is never a dull moment and the pacing is modern to the taste.
Somehow the novel speaks of enduring faith, hope and love. It allows readers to analyze themselves and how safe they are in the type of stories they weave into their lives. It also builds appreciation to the little details of our relationships. Life as we know it, at the end of the day is bittersweet because we lead to the same conclusion. But if we are forced to relive the biting events of our life, the stakes are raised and all our senses are heightened. Just like how Henry deals with the unpredictable repetition of all things painful.
The way the author properly placed the ticking time bomb created enough tension which’s met with anxiety and enthusiasm by the readers. Every page is turned hoping against hope that the protagonist is wrong in his calculations. That the end is not death but a happily ever after.
All the supporting characters are positioned well, too. They themselves can have their own full story equally dynamic as Henry and Clare. Richard, Henry’s father, lost his wife early in their married life and slowly ruined his own trying to bury the pain of not having her around. Lucille, Clare’s mother who tried to commit suicide after losing a baby, is a colorful Bourgeois. And Charisse, a beautiful Filipina who is married to a man who is in love with another woman – she is like most selfless wife we know. The subplot offered to Henry and Clare’s story by these individuals solidifies the vigorous existence The Time Traveler’s Wife is sharing.
I tried to arrange the novel to its type but I am torn from drama, romance to sci-fi. I believe not one word sums up the classification of Audrey Niffenegger’s masterpiece. It just defies to be boxed. All I know is that she achieved so much when she created this novel. Somehow it connects to reality although very much imagined. The metaphor is astute to the brim that anyone can relate no matter what their demographic is.
Now I wonder ever so deeply, after I’ve closed the book, after I’ve thrown all my used Kleenex, after I learned how sad it was to be Henry and Clare, and before I walk back to my life – a line resounded in my head, “It’s hard being left behind … It’s hard to be the one who stays”. Because once in my life this was true. How would I be able to live peacefully if the only man I loved is continually taken away from me?
And I start to cry again.
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Written by first time novelist Audrey Niffenegger
Published by Vintage Books London