February Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

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For this month’s book review, I had to pick my favorite.  One of my favorites, fine.  I have too many favorites.  This one I’ve read four times, and now that I pulled it off the shelf for reference, I’m probably going to read it again.  I have recommended this book to almost anyone who has asked me what they should read, accompanied by this disclaimer: you have to go with it.  Some have started it and can’t get into it.  I’ve had some bad reviews.  Can’t please everybody, folks.  And if you saw the movie, just poof that experience right out of your memory because that was an embarrassment to Audrey Niffenegger and I can’t believe she allowed it.  Even though not everyone loves it as much as I; there have been a few, who like me, clutch their chest and say, “the end…, oh my…”  and who rank Henry and Claire up at the top of their heartbreaking love story list, like me.

Henry time travels, and while that might sound a little science fiction-y on its face, it doesn’t present that way.  He can’t control when he leaves or where he goes, and he can’t take anything or anyone with him.  It is explained as a genetic disorder that causes him to randomly skip time.  Niffenegger wrote this book in a very untraditional fashion, in that her time line has been chopped up and realigned out of order.  Sometimes flashing back, sometimes flashing forward.  It is written in first person, from the perspective of both Henry, and Claire.  And I love these characters.  Henry is at once, desperate and determined, careful and risky.  He is on the verge of becoming wrecked all the time.  Claire presents a circular argument in my head about free will and having a pre-determined fate.  You see, Henry meets Claire completely out of sequence in life.  She meets him when she is a tiny girl, in a sun-drenched clearing near her family’s estate.  Did she ever have a choice in loving him?  Henry loves Claire in the present, but he also gets to watch her grow up.  On the reverse, she has loved Henry her whole life.  I think about my husband as a little boy, and how he must have always smelled like fresh air and sunshine, and that amazing combination of sweat and dirt, like little boys should.  Skinned knees, dirty hands, curly blonde hair, and the most beautiful laugh I have ever heard, coming from the mouth of a little boy.  I would love to see how the man I know and love grew out of the Kentucky earth.  Henry got to see Claire like that, and that is so priceless to me.

I love this book because it’s outside the “Nicholas-Sparks-love-story-box.”  I like him too, ok, just not always.  I love this book because Henry gets used up by the universe, but he remains always funny, incredibly passionate, and simultaneously terrified.  He is vulnerable and afraid and completely lovable.  Claire is a fighter and she’s loyal, and she loves Henry despite the immensely difficult situations they constantly face.  The Time Traveler’s Wife is full of hilarious scenes, some questionable ones (disclaimer: sex), some awkward ones (disclaimer: sex again), but some ridiculously human ones that really pull at me.  And one that left me sobbing in pieces.  Which I really appreciate.  I need to be moved.  If you do too, just go with it.  And don’t try to figure out the timeline as you’re reading it.

If you decide to read it, please let me know!  I hope you will love it as much as I do.

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