Friday, May 23, 2008

The Time Traveler's Wife (book) by Audrey Niffenegger

This book centers on two characters: Henry DeTamble, a man whose messed up genes cause him to unintentionally time travel, and Claire, the woman who eventually becomes his wife. Claire has known Henry since she was six and he appeared naked in front of her (when he travels, nothing that is not a part of him goes with him). Henry has known Claire since he was 28 (although he had, in fact, met her when he was younger, but hadn't realized it). Claire becomes so important to Henry that much of his unintentional time traveling starts to center around her, sending him back to her past. Claire's childhood is filled with Henry, which later prompts her to seek him out using clues that he gave her. It's a very circular relationship that will hurt your head if you think about it too much. I know, because it has hurt mine, even though I love this book.

Well before the end of the book, there are many signs that things are going to end badly for Henry. It made it very difficult for me to finish the book, because I'd started to like Henry and Claire, and I didn't want to see them suffer. Still, I needed to know how things ended, so I kept on going. The result is that I cried, loved the book, and didn't touch it again until recently, when my book discussion group decided to read this book during one of our Sci-fi months. I know, I know, this book isn't really science fiction, but no one in the group reads much science fiction, so we've been having problems coming up with decent science fiction books by authors the group hasn't already read.

Almost everyone enjoyed it. The one person (technically two people, but the second person couldn't make it to the discussion) who didn't said that this was because she couldn't get over the "creepiness" of it all. I can understand this. Henry is a grown man continuously visiting his wife during her childhood. As she hits her teens, she indicates that she's interested in him and he resists her, until he eventually sleeps with her (she's 18, he's 40, I think).

The one person's argument was that Henry and Claire's relationship was icky not just because of the age difference while they were meeting, but also because Henry never chose to stop the ickiness by not approaching Claire and not giving her a list of the dates he would be there. She doesn't think Henry gave Claire much of a choice about how her future would turn out. Although I can see the ick factor, I have a problem with this argument. I believe that neither Claire nor Henry had a choice. Once again, this brings up the whole paradox thing. Henry couldn't help but travel back to meet Claire, because he'd already traveled back to meet Claire. It had already happened, and it wasn't something he could undo. He gave her the dates he would reappear because that's what happened.

Eh, I need to quit thinking about time travel and whether or not it's possible to not do something that's already been done. It makes my head hurt too much. Anyway, this book is good and heart-rending. Don't let the cover blurbs make you pass this by - I always cringe at reading something where the over blurb says something like "beautifully crafted", because I think people who write blurbs as though they are mini-literature are probably full of themselves, which implies that the book might be full of itself, too.

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