The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

time traveler

So I wasn’t planning on including a discussion/review on this book but then I saw on television that The Time Traveler’s Wife has been made into a movie and is being released this month.  The preview reminded me that it really was an excellent story and that I enjoyed it and it is worth talking about.

The reason I wasn’t planning on writing about it was only because I listened to the audio book version during a long road trip rather than reading it myself and since I don’t do that often, I can’t help but think that it may have changed my perception of the book.  Every once in a while, for example, one of the readers (there were two, one male, one female reading each of the two main characters’ parts…and the male sounded like Chris Parnell from Saturday Night Live, which was distracting…) would use emphasis or inflection that would change the meaning of a statement from how I think I would have interpreted it myself.  It’s also easy to sort of zone out for a few lines while listening and I was less likely to go back on the CD to listen again when I would’ve definitely backtracked in the book had I been reading it.

But anyway, there are plenty of great things about this book regardless of the medium.

A quick synopsis (if possible):  Henry has a genetic disorder that causes him to spontaneously travel through time to places, people or events that have been or will be significant to him during his lifetime.  There are certain things that can trigger it, like watching television, or high-stress situations, but for the most part it is completely unpredictable and when Henry goes, he takes nothing with him, not even his clothes.  Clare is Henry’s wife and soul mate and has known him since she was six years old and he appeared for the first time as a naked 41-year old man in her parents’ back field.  The entire story jumps around chronologically as the pieces are gradually put together to complete their lifelong story.  Each chapter is prefaced with the date and with Henry and Clare’s ages to help keep things straight.

I thought the time-traveling aspect of the book was really unique.  There are no paradoxes to complicate things.  In fact, Henry actually travels back to help his young self deal with his “disorder.”  Using his own boyhood memories as a guide, he offers young Henry tips on how to stay safe when he finds himself in unfamiliar or dangerous situations.  He refrains from telling either his younger self or young Clare details about the future so that they can continue to live their lives and make decisions with minimal influence.  Henry time travels often, and the amount of time that he is away from the present varies, leaving Clare to wonder where and when he is and when he’ll return.

Apart from the science fiction, the book was also a very poignant love story, not only regarding the couple’s enduring romance, but also their heartbreaking struggles to start a family.  Any fetus that inherits Henry’s disorder has a chance of spontaneously travelling outside of Clare’s womb, either to places unknown or in bed next to her, which is quite possibly the most tragic thing I can even conceptualize.  I’m not sure if it was because of the voice actors, but it really seemed to be an especially emotional  book, even unashamedly, violently so.

Henry has a geneticist working closely with him to try to pinpoint his exact chromosomal anomaly, but in the meantime he has traveled to the future and been told about his death and so is racing to find a “cure”  in order to change his future before it is too late.

The story is excellent and the writing is pretty good with only occasional weirdness.  I would suggest reading it for the unique, romantic story.  The Time Traveler’s Wife, which was released in 2003 was a national bestseller.  Since then Audrey Niffenegger has penned two graphic novels, The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress.  According to Wikipedia her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, is due out this fall.

Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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