I had seen the book on my mother’s bookshelf many times before, among other works like Marc Antony and Cleopatra, and My Sister’s Keeper. Curious, bored, and in need of something to read, I picked it up a novel and committed a book lover’s greatest sin: I judged a book by it’s cover. More appropriately, by its title. I thought that with the dreadful name of The Time Traveler’s Wife, I was about to read a crumby love story about a man who travels through time, desperately trying to stay with his wife only to somehow bring her along with him through time and/or stop time-traveling to remain with her in “present time.” How wrong I was.
The time-traveler, Henry was born with “chrono-impairment,” meaning he cannot control how or when he travels through time. His wife, Clare, first met Henry at age six after he time-traveled from a period in which he knew her as an adult. Clare, then, has known Henry all her life, yet when they meet in the “present,” Henry is too young to know Clare. Each chapter opens with their ages, a clear indication of whether “current” Henry or “time-traveling” Henry is present. This is especially helpful if you’re time-traveling incompetent like me.
I seriously misjudged this book when I saw it for the first time. The book deals with deep issues like relationship issues (of which Clare and Henry experience a lot) and the impossibility of holding onto something forever, which is much more than the sappy romance I expected.
When their relationship begins in Clare’s time, she and Henry struggle to define their relationship. Henry knows Clare as an adult in his time, yet Clare in her time is still a child. Clare wants more from Henry than he is comfortable giving, because he sees her as a little girl. They argue about this often. Clare won’t stop pressuring Henry, but Henry is unsure about the future of their child and if the child will also be born with “chrono-impairment.”
Henry’s involuntary time-travel is also a source of arguments between them. Henry starts to experiment with drugs to try to limit or stop himself from traveling through time, but Clare doesn’t want him to. She thinks the drugs could kill him, or possibly make him time travel into a wall, which would also kill him. Henry just wants to live a normal life with her, to have a family and grow old with her.
Clare and Henry’s arguments and interactions make them real to readers, fleshed out characters with real problems. Their relationship isn’t perfect and they give each other the silent treatment but that’s what a real relationship is. It isn’t always easy and Clare and Henry have to work hard to stay together and get past their problems. Readers can relate to Clare and Henry’s situation, if not the time-traveling aspect, and understand the reality of a relationship.
This book was well-written and the author made time-travel understandable. The reader gradually acquires bits of information detailing how and why Henry time-traveled and how he knew Clare were introduced throughout the novel. The reader also sees to where and when Henry travels and how he survives his escapades in different times and places.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is a novel about the problems of a relationships in the frame of uncontrollable time-travel. It is not another sci-fi thriller about time-travel but an original take on a romance. But, if I haven’t sold you on the content of the book, there is also a movie for those of you too lazy to open a book and flip the pages.