By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 30, 2007 3:51PM
For this month’s Convince Us, we asked you to recommend a love story. We picked The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. We picked it because of the Chicago connection, but also because we can’t stand to keep hearing about a book we haven’t read.
The story is about Henry, a man with Chrono-Displacement disorder, or in other words, a time traveler. Henry meets and falls in love with Clare: “I met Clare for the first time in October, 1991. She met me for the first time in September, 1977; she was six, I will be thirty-eight. She's known me all her life. In 1991 I'm just getting to know her.”
Confusing? Not so much. We’ll admit that we have big problems with time travel. We get really spastic and hyper and lost and sometimes just let go of storyline altogether. When we started Time Traveler we were a little concerned that we’d get confused and remain so for the rest of the book. But no doubt Niffenegger (always feels like we’re saying a bad word when we say her name) weaves the story beautifully, heading each chapter with Henry and Clare’s ages and what year the narrative is taking place. The story is told in the first person by both Henry and Clare, and in the present tense, which helps to keep us grounded by letting us know exactly where we are.
Niffenegger quickly erases some of the immediate questions of time travel: Yes, Henry does sometimes give tips to people for the stock market and wins money playing the lottery. No, when he travels he cannot bring anything that isn’t part of his body with him, leading him to get teeth pulled because his fillings kept popping out. He “lands” naked and starving, much like the Terminator. No, he cannot control where or when he goes.
Because we’re the cold-hearted hipsters that we are, we spent some of the book looking for something wrong, something to criticize. We’re cynics at heart and can’t just sink into a drippy love story with ease. We knew while we were reading that we were being manipulated up and down the block, but in the end, Niffenegger had us by the proverbial balls. Once we suspended our disbelief (which really didn’t take long), we settled in for the ride. Henry is a perfect and dark leading man — troubled but sensitive, a good man who must learn how to steal and to fight in order to stay alive. Clare is beautiful, artistic and smart, a grounded straight woman who mirrors our frustrations with Henry’s unbelievable escapades.
We made sure to finish our reading in a quiet setting, alone and peaceful right before sleep to get the full effect of the heart-wrenching ending. And as we lay cuddled up in our bed, reading the last twenty pages or so, the tears began to fall. We ended up sobbing, weeping in our beds, wiping the muck from our face while we tried to hold it together, giving into it every step of the way.
The weirdest part of it was that this book sneaked into our own personal relationship. It actually made us feel more romantic about our own love, leading us to say to our significant other more than once “I’m so glad you’re not a time traveler.” In the end, even though we did our best not to, we loved The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was an intense, romantic and unbelievable love story, a love story unlike anything we’ve read before.