Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fall Into Reading 2007 #2 - Time Traveler's Wife

I’ve gotten a few of my books read so far, but I'm going to do this book all by itself. It needs to shine out like a star among the black of fiction night.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger's innovative, beautiful debut The Time Traveler's Wife is the story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Seemingly impossible but true, due to Henry’s Chrono-Displacement Disorder: erratically his genetic clock resets, and he finds himself uncontrollably mislaid in time, pulled to moments of emotional significance in his life, both in his past and in his future. His disappearances are spontaneous and his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler'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. Told in first person through the eyes of Henry and Clare, Ms. Niffenegger smartly gives the date(s) and the ages of Clare and/or Henry and sometimes multiple ages for Henry when more than one of him is present. (Mind-boggling at times, but really memorable!) Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals—steady jobs, good friends, children of their own - all of which is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable and completely consuming.

This book, by far, is my favorite modern work of fiction. It is an original story filled with luscious character full of life, energy, humor and regret. The basis of the entire romance twirls around the original meeting between the courageous six year old Catholic schoolgirl and the knowing, adult Henry. Because of that first meeting, Clare knows who she will eventually love and cherish throughout her life, and Henry sees the unseeable – the beauty and innocence of his wife as a child through her teens.

The dialogue among all the characters feels real and vulnerable, which, if you consider the context and storyline, is a feat in and of itself. I adore the wit and charm of Henry, the boldness and strength of Clare, the bad-boyness, off-setting ways of Gomez and the comfort and mothering of Kimmy, Henry’s surrogate mother. Even the characters that need to disliked are alive in full details and completely dimensional. Each character has been well-conceived and born into its own identity.

Niffenegger had to have kept some kind of visual timeline when writing this masterpiece in order to keep all the details straight, else I don’t see how she could keep everything straight, think through all the ramifications of time travel and sew them seamlessly together throughout the storyline. One way that Niffenegger succeeds in keeping the reader on track is by following (for the most part) Clare’s stationary life - hence the title of the book. Once the reader allows that time travel is a part of Henry’s genetic makeup, nothing else seems as out of place, farfetched or overly confusing.

Not always pretty or soft, this book will make you glow and dream as you share the love between these two lovers, it will make you laugh with joy and wit, it will fill you with suspense as Henry time travels to times and places unbeknownst to him until he gets there and Clare fearfully awaits his unknown return, and it will make you cry with tears of sorrow and pain. Boy, will it make you cry! And yet, you should be left sufficiently satisfied and content with a well-knitted, fully enraptured love story. Once buried within this novel and fully immersed in their lives, you have to suffer their pain as well as celebrate their joys with Henry and Clare. This is a testament to the literary skill of Ms. Niffenegger.

I willingly admit that this is a book that I read almost annually. I love to delve into the pages of bewilderment, chaos and circular love. By that I mean that it is a circular motion of time that set Clare in love with Henry from her childhood which in turn set Henry in love with Clare from 28 years old. One needed the other in order for the relationship to exist. I find the entire story breath-taking, hopeful and refreshing, despite its multiple foreshadowing of hearts broken, agonizing pain and timeless, endlessly complete love.

Now... Back to reading!

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