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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Make room for The Time Traveler’s Wife

Published: March 10, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

I know the number one thing on most of us liberal arts kids wish lists isnt another book to read. Just keeping up with what Im supposed to have done for class is enough of an uphill struggle. Yet every time break rolls aroundand, lets face it, that happens a lot hereI start to feel nostalgic and excited about reading for fun. Not that I dont enjoy some of the books I read for classI dobut its not the same. Something about the fact that I cant read them on my own time plus those two hundred other pages sitting on the desk waiting to be read takes the enjoyment and relaxation right out of reading.

So does that mean that I cant enjoy reading a novel for about eight months out of the year?

No! I refuse to let bookstore become synonymous with ISBN numbers. But its not like I want to read something weighty during the off-hours. I need something goes down easy and pulls me in. It doesnt have to make me think deep thoughts, as long as its interesting and engaging.

And really, whats a better solution to that than the unsolvable puzzle that is time travel?

Enter The Time Travelers Wife. Ever since middle school, when a book pulled one of those impossible-to-resolve scenarios that crop up with time travel, I havent been able to resist time travel. It drives me crazy to think about it and yet I just cant say no. This story, like all the others, doesnt unlock the mystery to time travel and have it all make sensebut thats okay, confusion goes with the territory, and this story largely makes the weirdness work.

The Time Travelers Wife is about a man, Henry, who suffers from a chronology disorder which makes him time travel against his will. Henrys condition is interesting in that he does not usually travel to times much beyond his lifespan either in the past or on the less-common trips to the future. He also cannot take any objects with him when he time travels, which makes for many naked adventures and hunts for clothing. Henrys time traveling issues started when he was only five, but somehow he learns how to take care of himself, with a little help from his future self. It gets complicated thinking of him existing in two or more places at oncethe Henry that belongs in that time period, the young Henry that has time traveled from the past to that date, and an older Henry that has traveled from the future to that dateand thats just a taste of weird situations that crop up in the book.

However, Henry isnt the full story, obviously. Theres also his wife, Clare, who in some weird way is always his wife. He has been thrown into her life since she was six years old, tossed back in time to her house throughout his thirties and fourties, when he already knows what will happen. Clare grows up with visits from him and finds out that he is her husband in her future and his present. Its one of the things that I think is unfair about the book, she knows from a very young ago who she is going to be with and everything is basically set in stone, while Henry has a life before he finds Clare.

However, Clares not complaining because they are soulmates, which might sound gag-worthy if the story wasnt so engaging. The fact that they meet about four times when normal people only have the one time is interesting. Thirty-something Henry meets young Clare for the first, not knowing who she is, and young Clare meets Henry on a different occasion. Then twenty-eight year old Henry meets twenty-year-old Clare for the first time when she already knows who he is and what they will become. Sound confusing? Yes, but I promise you, its addictive. The dynamics of their relationship are so odd, but even in their oddness, they are somehow still basically normal people. Sure, they may use the fact that Henry knows whats going to happen in the future for monetary gains (which I enjoy because most people who work with time travel seem to think thats morally wrong), but they still are two people who love each other and have to deal with their problems.

Their lives are touching, unfair, absurd, and wholly absorbing, which makes this the kind of book that you can work your way through during the year even with everything else you have to do. Just make sure you pass it along to someone else when youre done, because its the kind of book that leaves lots of little things to talk about when youre done.