Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

Love wouldn't be love if it weren't cliche. And neither would love stories, if they weren't either.

Of course, in the end of a good love story, Boy and Girl* get together and live happily ever after. Or there is some brief period of extreme happiness, preserved forever simply because of a romantically tragic occurrence that presumably prevents those involved from the inevitable strife of married bliss.

But the basis of almost all love stories is the same. Vonnegut even charted it. Boy meets Girl, Girl and Boy fall madly in love (sometimes without even realizing it), something bad happens to endanger their together-forever-sort of happiness, but then things take an almost miraculous but somehow inevitable turn for the better, and we draw the curtain on that most meaningful of kisses.

Life, however, seldom seems to happen like that. The bad turns stay bad, and Boy and Girl start new charts with new people. Or things stay good, but not eternally so. If Vonnegut graphed life and not love stories, we would see a sin-graph and not some variation of x-to-the-third.** But it feels like in real-life, all that is possible does not usually happen, and usually it all has to for things to work out in that happily-ever-after sort of way.

But what if the impossible happened?

Maybe the impossible is simply everything possible going right. But if the impossible were something more than that... well, that's what I think The Time Traveler's Wife gives us.

Niffenegger may have written the best love story I've ever read. If there's anything to be lamented, it's that I cannot hope to have what Henry and Clare experience with each other. But if I can ever feel what they feel together... well, then I will be a happy man, indeed.
*This is just heterosexual love. Without spouting off on my beliefs... just know I'm not scorning any other kind of love. But this book happens to deal with this particular kind, and not much with the others.

**And you should be impressed that I remember even this much math. But if I'm wrong, please correct me gently.


  1. I'm gonna have to read this. I'm a sucker for a good love story and I like sappy stuff on occasion

  2. seriously one of my favorite books of all time. glad you got to it. :)

  3. @ Bin Bin: Yes, if you're a sucker for a good love story... well, this one will suck you right in.

    @ Lex: I would believe it to be. And for good reason. I'm glad I got to it too.

  4. Posting well after the fact, but I just saw the movie and just saw your post and, so.

    This is one my favorite books. The movie was ok, but as usual could not capture the nuances and details of the book. I still had to sit in the theatre and weep for a good 5 minutes after the lights came up though. One theme that resonated with me is the entropic nature of relationships. We know from early on that Henry and Clair's will end and that adds poignancy to much of their story. But isn't that true of ALL our relationships? After all, none of get out of here alive.

  5. I was surprised to learn, upon finishing the book, that this was the author's first novel. This book is very well written and thought out, and the flow and pacing of the novel are nearly perfect. In spite of the gaps of knowledge that time travel would naturally provide, the story itself has no gaps. This book has already become one of my top two favorite books, and I look forward to reading more by Ms. Niffenegger.