Monday, March 12, 2012

Things get kind of circular, when you're me. Cause and effect get muddled

I'm not a fan of romances. It's nothing against them and if you like them, awesome. But love stories and rom-coms are not my thing. But I decided to give The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger a try. It's out of my comfort zone, it's by a female author (and I've really been slacking on those), and it has come highly rated from Brenna at Literary Musings and she has good taste. Plus a few people said it was much better than the movie, which I have not seen but assume it's very mushy/melodramatic. Anyway, the book was on a remainder table at my local indie bookstore so I decided to give it a try. I am happy to say it is much better than I anticipated, even if my expectations were fairly low.

This is a love story. It's not the mushy, roll-your-eyes-at-every-sentence love story, but at least know that's what you're getting. It is a love story with time travel. And now that I typed that I'm thinking something like Kate & Leopold* with someone traveling forward from the past (or the other way) and then they have a love in this fish-out-of-water situation. The time travel is what causes and gets in the way of the love story. Henry DeTamble, the time traveler of the title, can't control his time travel. It's a genetic disorder that causes him to travel through time, usually visiting himself at various points in his life. Oh also, he can't bring anything with him on this travels, so he shows up naked and starving. He learns to steal (for clothes & money) to fight (because a naked man showing up randomly is not typically a welcome sight) and to run.

He often visits his wife (or to-be wife) Clare Abshire throughout her adolescence. The love story starts for Clare when she's 6 (I know it sounds creepy, but it's not Lolita-y) and for Henry when he's 28. Or when he's 36. Time travel is usually confusing to describe. The more you think about it, the less it makes sense. Which is the way time travel always works, so as long as the basic rules make sense, you're good.

Henry and Clare each narrate parts of the book, sometimes the same scene from each perspective, sometimes not. The two have equal time in the book, although the story is really Henry's. You hear a lot from Clare's point of view, but it's always about Henry. And Henry's been in her life since she was young, so in a way this makes sense. It also explains the title in that the book is about the time traveler and his wife. Neither character is particularly fleshed out apart from the relationship, although Clare has nothing without Henry. That was my biggest problem with the book. The title is apt because this isn't really about Clare. It's about Clare as the time traveler's wife.

That said, I liked the book. This isn't a new favorite but it was much better than I expected and I'm happy I read it. It takes a different look about relationships, about the sacrifices made, the happiness and the pain. There are also some questions on fate, but what time travel story would be complete without that?

*I said I didn't really like rom-coms. I didn't say I haven't seen them...

Title quote from page 315

Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler's Wife. Harcourt, 2003.