The Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffeneger’s tale of lovers dealing with the additional difficulty of literally being out of step in time.

Henry is away travelling and Clare is home waiting for him to return. Sound familiar? But this is no ordinary travel and no ordinary wait. Henry is time travelling. He was born with a genetic anomaly that sends him out of current time, visiting places and people in the past and occasionally in the future. He has no control over these adventures. It could happen anytime, he could show up anywhere, although he doesn’t stray far from familiar territory, and it can last for any length of time. When he comes back, he often returns to his own home, but sometimes not. Both in travelling away and returning, he is often thrown into unusual circumstances or dangerous situations and sometimes gets hurt. Clare never knows when he will return or in what condition. All she can do is wait.

The story is told alternately by Clare and Henry so we get a good sense of what it is like for each of them to have to deal with this problem. They love each other very much but Henry’s disappearances and the inherent worry for his safety are hard for Clare to bear. Another difficulty is their inability to conceive a child and that drains her both physically and emotionally. As an artist, she is able to express some of her grief and worry through her creations. For Henry the time-travelling is very physically demanding and he is often exhausted and ravenously hungry. He gets thinner and more wraith-like as he gets older.

In the end, it is a love story, fraught with all the ordinary worries and problems of any ordinary two people. However, since Henry is far from ordinary, they have to face problems that most people would never even have to contemplate. Despite the suspension of disbelief required of the reader, it feels very real, passionate and believable.