I don’t know when books are allowed to be tagged “oldie but a goodie”, but I think The Time Traveler’s Wife should definitely be considered in that category. Published 15 years ago, this book became a national bestseller, was turned into a movie, and is still popping up on my Instagram feed with people stating it’s on their TBR and they can’t wait to read it.
The book plot is ultimately a love story, compounded by time travel. In alternating points of view, we follow the relationship development of Clare Abshire and Henry DeTamble. Clare has known Henry almost her whole life, since she was six. At that time, Henry was 36, but in his life, the first time they met he was age 28. He can’t explain it, but he has been time traveling since he was five, moving between the past, present, and future with very little to no control, always landing at a different time period naked, hungry, and usually on the run.
Henry, the son of a violinist and a singer, had a wonderful childhood until he was five, when tragedy struck and his mother was killed. He too was in the same accident, but he managed to survive. Henry’s father was devastated, and turned to alcohol for comfort, in turn leaving Henry to practically fend for himself. This left him literally mentoring himself in the art of time travel (the duplicity is so complex!) with subjects such as pick-pocketing, lock-picking, and “how to use oddball things like Venetian blinds.” He wishes that he knew how he could control the time travel, but he does know that no matter what, he has to be ready to survive any situation he is tossed in.
Clare is the daughter of a well off family with problems of their own. She often spends time in the meadow a ways off from her house, and one day Henry appears. At first, she’s highly suspicious, but after some clever conversion with Henry, she’s excited to be let in on his secret. She provides him with clothes, food, and shelter, as well as safeguards him. As she ages, she is eager to hear more about him and his life in the future- which is also a large portion of her own future.
As the two stories weave together, we learn that Clare is one of the few constants in Henry’s life, and despite their hardships, they know their love is strong enough to withstand the test of time.
Niffenegger will have you giggling one moment and crying the next. Her ability to manage a timeline driven plot with a time traveler is outstanding and surprisingly easy to follow- not to mention the foresight and foreshadowing that is worked in. It’s so eloquently written, and I adore the language that comes from each character- so intelligent, witty, and honest. I’ll stop gushing, but if this is still on your TBR pile, definitely give it a read.