BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Time Traveler's WifeTending toward contrary (ahem!) means I can’t seem to read ubiquitous bestsellers when everyone else does. Nope, haven’t read a single Stieg Larsson (one the last hold-outs, I’m sure) or Evanovich or Cussler or Patterson. I know, like an ostrich am I.

So while Time Traveler’s Wife was in every bookshop window, every airport concourse, and every passing stranger’s hands, the book remained unopened on my shelves (I did buy an early British printing). Instead, I gleefully ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed at regular intervals over Audrey Niffenegger’s illustrated works, the latest being her intriguing first graphic novel which debuted last month, The Night Bookmobile.

For Niffenegger’s prose, ironically, the time just had to be right. And I had to put it on my iPod and I had to run many, many miles. Funny enough, when I told a dear friend that I was finally settling into Time, she laughed with surprise (and some concern) and said, “YOU?!!! But that’s the kind of book I would read, not YOU!”

Technically, I didn’t read. I had it read to me oh-so-heart-stoppingly back and forth by narrators William Hope and Laura Lefkow. Instantly drawn in, I found myself repeatedly telling Henry (he runs lots, too) out loud that it wasn’t his ratty shoes that were causing his knees to ache, but that he wasn’t using his mid-foot strike [I’m seriously training with Coach Eric Orton, so am learning these things, too]. And my usual grimacing during hard hills and sprints would suddenly dissolve into a huffing-and-puffing rush of tears at Clare’s waiting, Henry’s longing … and even at Alba’s joy. Yes, just call me a literal spectacle!

Above all, this is one stupendous love story. But not only the love between two soulmates – Clare and Henry – but also the indescribable bond between parent and child … Henry and his mother, Clare and her mother, and eventually Alba and her parents. Regardless of the damage one might wreak upon the heart of the other, regardless of the unexpected disappearances, love provides the ultimate redemption for them all.

The premise of Niffenegger’s debut novel is rather like a Möbius strip (click for a visual) which, at first glance, appears to be two parts, but is intricately connected to make a neverending surface. That is the essence of the relationship between Clare, the eponymous ‘Time Traveler’s Wife,’ and Henry, the chrono-challenged love of her life. Clare is 6 when they meet; Henry has traveled back from when he is 36 which means he holds the future. In Henry’s ‘real’ time, they will not meet until Clare is 20 and Henry 28, which means only Clare knows their past. Their love story, of course, proves everlasting …

That’s probably all you need to know to get you hooked … although I must mention, this had one of the most naturally multi-culti casts I’ve encountered in a very long time, especially noteworthy for the Korean American surrogate mother and Filipino American best friend.

But … as Henry reminds Clare over and over again, every time … it’s never good to know too much.

To read my interview with Niffenberger for, click here.

Tidbit: Interestingly, the aural version gets another edition just three years later in 2006, read by Fred Berman and Phoebe Strole. I haven’t listened to the newer; for me, Henry and Clare will always be William and Laura.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2003



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