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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

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The idea of time travel has always been fascinating stuff. The premise of it is simply captivating. What’s got to be cooler than time travel, right? To be able to travel to the past and future. And maybe go visit Elvis, or go to future and see yourself as an 75-year-old crumbling man/woman. This kind of thing has been out there in sci-fic books for quite a while, but in The Time Traveler’s Wife, there’s a new aspect to it. This time traveling is a disease, specifically Chrono Displacement Disorder, something you have without choice that you can’t have control over. Audrey Niffenegger shows this time traveling as a disadvantage, something always in the way, and in this story--between Henry, the time traveler, and his wife Clare.

Even if this story has a sci-fic side to it, it’s mostly centers on how it affects Henry and Clare. It’s hard to explain what it’s about. Henry and Clare 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. Doesn’t that just give you a headache? :P Basically, thirty-six-year-old Henry meets Clare in the past when she was six. When Henry is 28, he meets Clare in the present, but doesn’t recognize her because he isn’t 36 yet so he hadn’t experienced that past yet. While Henry vanishes from the present spontaneously, and finds himself naked in some other time period and has to steal for clothing and food, Clare is the one who is always left behind, the one who was wait for Henry to come back. Clare says, “It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays. [...:] Why is love intensified by absence?”

I was totally sucked into the first 100 pages. It was really cool how I got to know Henry and his time traveling skills from Clare at the beginning of the story. It was like I was growing with her, at the early age of six--experiencing what she felt and had gone through.

The writing was great. The switching back and forth in time wasn’t surprisingly confusing. Niffenegger skillfully moves the story forward, even when it jumps to the past every now and then.

I liked the dreams and nightmares Niffenegger has throughout the story. I thought they were done effectively--disturbing, yet powerful.

Niffenegger doesn’t give long explanations of the physics of time traveling. However it was well thought out and Niffenegger made it plausible. For example, Henry doesn’t have a driving license since it’s too dangerous if he time travels when he’s driving a car and the car continues to move forward and crash into another vehicle. Also, when he time travels, he arrives naked; he can’t bring anything that’s not part of his body with him into a different time period—not the clothes on his back, his money in his wallet, or even his tooth filling. Imagine what it would be like if he had glasses. Not cool.

A question that hung in the air after I finished the book was: does the future affect the past, or the past the future. “Things get kind of circular when you’re me. Cause and effect get muddled,” Henry says. Is life predestined? Henry, for example, dictates all the dates he was going to visit Clare in the past and Clare writes them in her notebook. So doesn’t making someone to do something in the past mean that the future Henry was changing the past? (I know, right? *headache* >.<) And what about the time when Clare writes the date on her drawing when Henry knows that in the future there wasn’t a date? Clare confesses that she trimmed it off because she was too scared that it might mess things up, but what if she hadn’t? Would the date appear in the future? Or is life already written out and we can’t go around messing with it? Destiny or Decision? I like to believe that it’s the latter. I like to believe that God is the observer, instead of the playwright. I mean, it seems so pointless if whatever we do now hardly matters. Why not just wait and let it happen? That’s not very inspirational, is it? Everyone would be slacking around, right?

Anyway, there's also things I didn't quite like about the book.

I didn't think I could stand the expression "here and now" any more after I finished reading this book. The first few times it was okay, but once it showed again for like the tenth time, it got really annoying.

I had problems with the ending. I felt like it was too abrupt. I just wasn't satisfied at the end. I was more like, "That's it? That's how it ends?" *seeing if there were any more pages but I'm holding the last page*

The listing of Henry's choice of music was also a little annoying. It was okay the first time, and I understood why Henry wanted to kids to stop listening to punk and instead listen to the more old music that was disappearing. But Niffenegger kept listing his favorites bands or songs again and again and again.

Like I said earlier, this is more of a love story than a sci-fic story. So, you would have to endure many intimate scenes, but in the end, it's all good. It was time well spent.



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