“Time is Nothing” when reading Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife”

Science fiction love stories are not usually at the top of my summer reading list, but The Time Traveler’s Wife was, I guess I would say, not your average science fiction love story. It oscillates from the point-of-view of Henry Detamble and the love of his life, Clare. Early on we discover that Henry suffers from Chrono-Displacement, a rare genetic disorder that causes him to time travel against his will. The love story of Clare and Henry is pieced together into non chronological fragments, allowing us to see Henry interacting with himself and Clare in both real time and in the past and future.

Confusing? A little, but the complexities only add value to the story.

Niffenegger expertly describes parcels of time out of order and then fits them together to gradually fill in story gaps as the book progresses.  Her true brilliance though lies in her ability to get the reader to transcend date and time, focusing more on the human interactions taking place in each specific time and place. By seeing a 41-year-old, Henry, interact with both a 16-year-old Clare, and then later, a much older Clare, we see how trivial certain life events can be…compared to love that is.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars. The novel reveals many themes related to love and time without trying to sway the reader’s opinions one way or another.  Although I was almost lulled to sleep by Niffenegger’s occasional attempts to use dream as a way to develop her metaphors and themes, it’s hard to criticize the believability of a novel about time travel. I ventured into Henry and Clare’s relationship, and it led me to lose track of time in my own world. A captivating read.

Life Lessons

  • There is a healthy way and an unhealthy way of looking into the past and future. Henry hates time traveling, but he can’t control where he goes when he disappears. On the other hand, if he could control it, time traveling might be very interesting and rewarding since not all of his experiences were negative or dangerous. We often let our minds wander where we don’t want them to go. This leads to mental turmoil. However, we can use some memories as fuel for our happiness as well as hope for the future to make us happier in the present.
  • We can only exercise free will in the present.
  • Time is trivial compared to human relationships. We get to see the protagonists interact with a wide range of generations. Some of them aren’t even alive in real time, but this fact doesn’t diminish the effect that people can have on each other. Whether our loved ones are part of our memories or if they are still with us, we are shaped by everyone that has come into our lives.