The Time Traveler's Wife - 2015 Reading Challenge
I needed a book that would destroy me. Let's rewind.
I have had a very good month. I signed with a literary agent, took on more hours and a new title at my job, my husband and I got a new car (to replace our languishing Nissan), and my visa to live in Australia was finally officially granted.
So when I saw that my 2015 Reading Challenge checklist said that I needed to read a book that would make me cry, I knew I had to pull out the big guns. I couldn't just read a book I heard was kind of sad. I couldn't just flip through the pages of something that made me bawl my eyes out during a breakup -- let's be honest, anything could at that time.
No, I needed something special. Something visceral. A book I have heard whispers about for years, whispers accompanied by devastated sighs and knowing glances between those who have read it before. A book that has literally spawned other books by angry authors who have channeled their pain and heartache into more words as some sort of revenge on their own readers.
I needed The Time Traveler's Wifeby Audrey Niffenegger. So that's what I got.
The first half was pretty easy going. I thought, Crap. Maybe this book won't make me cry. Maybe I will just read it and enjoy it because the characters are wonderful and interesting and they truly love each other despite all the weirdness.
And there is weirdness, dear reader. If you haven't read this book or seen the film, then how could you know? Don't worry, I'll tell you.
Something in Henry DeTamble's messed up genes makes him time travel. He will be in the room, and then suddenly, he won't. Leaving everything behind -- clothes, money, keys -- he will vanish into thin air and appear somewhere else in time, past or future.
This is how Clare meets him, when he is an adult coming from the future and she is a child in the 1970s. They meet in a meadow and become friends, even though he knows in the future they will be married. Her timeline moves forward while he keeps visiting her from the future, until one day they are separated. The next time she sees him, it is finally the 'present' Henry, meeting her for the first time, while she knows everything about him.
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I'm going to say it right now: I expected the weirdness to be weirder. After all, you've got a 30- and sometimes 40-something man every so often appearing naked in a meadow in front of his future wife, who is a child. Some people have criticized the book for that, but you know what?
If I had the chance to meet my husband when he was a child, I wouldn't be able to say no. Think what you like, but I would love to know him before he met me, watch him grow up to be the man I fell in love with. So I can understand where Henry's coming from, and I forgive him his self-stated "Humbert Humbertish" vibe. To be fair, their relationship is completely innocent until she comes of age, so let's leave that to rest.
What can I say without giving it all away? From halfway until the end, I was entangled in their relationship, immersed in the twisted hot mess of it. I first cried while reading this on the train as I watched them try anxiously to solve Henry's genetic problem so they could have a baby, and felt crushed as Clare tried again and again to get her pregnancies to stick. I have never felt so much vivid pain for a couple that does not truly exist in this world.
I would cry many more times, but I won't tell you why. That's for you to discover on your own. Be brave.
As a writer, I want to write books that make people feel. It's not necessarily my goal to make people snot-sob so hard they have to put the book down and take deep calming breaths so their husbands don't run into the room thinking that someone has died (not to say that happened to me...ahem), but I want my readers to carry my characters with them after they've closed the book and stuck it back on the shelf.
And isn't that what we want as readers, to bring characters with us rather than leaving them behind in the pages of the book as we go out to live our lives?
If you read The Time Traveler's Wife, be ready to live with Henry and Clare for a good long while. They won't easily leave.