The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel, THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, is a delightfully difficult book to describe. Clare meets Henry for the first time when she is 6 and he is 36. Henry meets Clare for the first time when he is 28 and she is 20. They marry when Clare is 23 and Henry is 31. Although Clare has known Henry nearly all her life, Henry has only known Clare for three years. Sound confusing? Not in Niffenegger's capable hands. Henry DeTamble is the first person in history diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder. In short, he time travels, thus making it possible for an older version of Henry to visit his "real time" wife when she is still a child, while the 28-year-old version of himself has no idea who she is when he meets her for the first time in October 1991.
The trouble with being a CDP (Chrono-Displaced Person) is having no control over when you travel, where you travel to, or how long you'll be gone. An episode can be triggered by any number of events or emotions. Although Henry usually travels to places he has been during the course of his lifetime and is often easily able to locate his "past" self or young Clare for assistance, he's not always so lucky. Since money and clothes don't make the trip with Henry, over time he learns to steal what he needs, fight when he has to, and as a result has had more than a few run-ins with the law. A 24-year-old time traveling version of Henry even takes advantage of a visit to his 5-year-old counterpart to impart lessons in the art of pickpocketing. Consequently, Henry leads a sort of Jekyll and Hyde existence --- mild-mannered librarian in one life, time-traveling thug in the other.
At age 28, Henry has just about resigned himself to accept the prospect of a life spent skating through time with no apparent cause, unable to form any lasting bonds with those in his present (or past), when he meets beautiful art student Clare (who has been waiting since age 6 to meet Henry). Theirs is an unforgettably poignant love story told through shifting non-linear time periods. They make the most of the time they spend together and suffer miserably when Henry's condition forces them apart. With Clare's urging, Henry seeks medical help and is eventually directed to Dr. Kendrick who diagnoses Henry but is unable to help him. When after a series of miscarriages Clare gives birth to a daughter named Alba, who inherits the CDD gene, Kendrick thinks he may finally be on the path to a cure. After Henry makes a rare and frightening trip into the future, he desperately needs to believe that this will happen --- and soon.
THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE is a highly original work from a seriously talented author. Niffenegger weaves her timelines with ease, never confusing the reader or leaving loose ends. She more than earns her place as a writer to watch.
Reviewed by Melissa Morgan on November 22, 2010
The Time Traveler's Wife
- Publication Date: November 22, 2010
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 560 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- ISBN-10: 0547119798
- ISBN-13: 9780547119793