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.