The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – ★★★★☆

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Start late 2018

Considering my feelings toward Firestarter, it may not be that hard to understand why I decided to start the next book and flip between the two to change it up while I finish the first. I’m about 1/3rd of the way through The Time Travelers Wife, and I’ve got a lot to say, and not a lot of it is good.

I’m a huge time travel fan. I’ll read or watch the shittiest of stories just because of my love for time travel. Still, I was hoping for better with this one. The story isn’t dull. I don’t mean to suggest that. It’s fun and enjoyable. Maybe thats why so many lists suggest its the best time travel story, or maybe its merely popular because of the film by the same name. I think a saw it a long time ago. I don’t remember much, so I’m sure I will rewatch it when done.

However, my problem with the book so far is how the author handles several issues in the book. Let’s start with the basic premise: a time traveler falls in love with a girl, who first meets him at the age of 6, and who he first meets at ~28. This sort of estranged love story makes for a nice fantasy, but the author tries to lend it with a level of realism that leaves it feeling more like Woody Allen marrying his adopted daughter. This girl knew him from when she was a child. I get there are problems with him being moved around time, but if he really wanted a relationship with her you don’t begin it with her as a young child. Its creepy, and the book just ignores this. Some may call it a necessary problem, but I already said the easy way of avoiding this is by living afar, not exposing yourself to her. Even then, there are problems here, but it is a fantasy love story after all.

I wish I could say the problem ends there, but I think that is just the first way in which the author decides to avoid addressing any serious topics in any serious manner in this book. When Henry, the main character, hits puberty, there is a scene in the book where he at two different stages of the age 15, briefly contemplate exploring their bodies before his dad walks in and then storms off. His father won’t speak to him for 3 weeks. He and his father never seem to discuss it or his sexuality, nor does Henry really delve very deeply into it himself. Just before his dad walks in, Henry is describing the scene to the reader when he makes it very clear, “I’m not gay!” On its own the scene feels somewhat minimal, but then there are multiple times where his sexuality comes into question. One man calls him a fag because he time traveled without clothes and so was nude. Henry processed to go ballistic, beating the guy to a bloody pulp and sending him to the hospital. The book moves on without addressing this obvious insecurity with his sexuality or the underlying anger issues this speaks to.

I can see so many people reading this (assuming people actually read this) and think I am just being too sensitive. Books are a way of addressing difficult topics, and great science fiction does by interlacing that discussion with a fun and unique idea. This is a unique idea, but the story is superficial and lacks any real depth. In the end, it is just another mediocre story.

UPDATE – 1/29/19

I’m enjoying the book. I can still recognize the antiquated ideas of the author seeping through. That aside, it is a fun book, and the author isn’t afraid to put her characters into pretty bad situations. I’m about 2/3 of the way through.

Finished – 1/30/19

I finished the book, quicker than I was expecting. The first thing I would like to say was that I enjoyed the ending. The story is essentially the life of Henry, told from different perspectives of his self and his wife. While he may be a time a traveler, the story stuck to a standard outline. That being said, I don’t think it is a spoiler to say the ending revolves around his ultimate death, and it is a depressing death. Things get dark towards the end. I really enjoy it when a writer isn’t afraid to touch darker tones.

I won’t say anything more about the ending, so as not to spoil it. Going into it, I felt it deserved maybe 3.5 stars, rounding down to 3. I’m inclined to round up now because of the ending. My biggest issue with that is how poorly the author handles the various issues I’ve mentioned. They are not obvious throughout the entire book, but they are pervasive. Even to the end, I noticed questionable actions without really addressing it. For instance, Henry and his wife are going through a rough patch. Henry (at age ~40) meets 15 year old wife and becomes unfairly mean towards are. He feels rightfully bad about it, and kisses her to make up for it. To which she says, “you’ve never kissed me before.” His response is over his own recklessness of forgetting and much less about the oh I’m 40 and kissing a 15 year old. Fact is she may become your wife (Mr. Woody Allen) but she’s a child with a child mind. That mind is warped to be enamored with a man more mature than her, but that isn’t consent. A similar problem arise on her 18th birthday, where they have sex, for her first time. His thoughts are of course on the legality of the situation.

I’m saying all this a couple days after finishing, so my thoughts are a bit muddled. Nevertheless, I can’t separate the problems I have with their entire relationship from how I perceive the book. It is a fun book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I still cringed in a lot of places. Nevertheless, I rate it 3.5/5, rounding up.

One Reply to “The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – ★★★★☆”

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