My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What is great about this book is the fact that despite having a man who travels through time as one of its main characters, The Time Traveler’s Wife doesn’t read like a sci-fi novel. It is, at its heart, a love story. In fact, it reminds me a great deal of Flowers for Algernon… (which if you haven’t read, I highly recommend.)
Henry, the titular time traveler, is not a superhero. His ability to travel in time is not something he wants or something he can control. Throughout the book, his ability is treated like a disability, something like epilepsy. His episodes come on like a seizure or a migraine, swift and unstoppable and he is unable to control where he goes or to bring anything with him, including clothing, cash, food, or anything else he could use for survival. On one of his trips through time, he meets Clare. She is six years old in this time but in his own time, she is an adult and they are married. They develop a relationship, getting to know each other in brief stolen moments. Clare protects and provides for Henry who is vulnerable while time traveling. He teaches and guides her into becoming the woman she will become, while trying to limit the amount of information he reveals about the future to her.
Then, meeting again as adults in the normal timeline, Clare is the one with a history and a relationship that Henry hasn’t experienced yet and it is her turn to guide him from the hard-living, reckless man he is to the mature man she has known all her life. The two lovers trade roles, taking turns discovering each other, coming to some common ground. Each spends a great deal of their life waiting for the other (In fact, Clare defines herself by her willingness to wait for Henry, comparing herself to a modern Penelope.) while trying to make a life in the moments that they are given.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved how the time traveling plot line only served to support and enrich the true point of the story, Henry and Clare’s relationship. The characters were well fleshed out and interesting. Henry, in particular, was a fascinating mix of cultured librarian and punk rebel. Their histories and relationships with other characters added depth to them as well. And I am not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end. All in all, it was a great read and I am glad that I picked it up.