“It’s dark, now, and I am very tired. I love you, always. Time is nothing.” (Niffenegger 504)
The first book I’d like to discuss here is one that I read a while back, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of opening up again “just for this blog’s sake” (that’s the excuse I came up with). Normally, I try my very best not to reread books. Well, at least not for a few good years, because as time passes, perspective changes, and new lessons are learnt.
But back to “The Time Traveler’s Wife“, by Audrey Niffenegger. First of all, what you should know about this book is that it tells the story of a love between a woman (Clare) and a man who time travels (Henry). He meets her when he’s twenty-eight and she’s twenty, but she has known him from the age of six. How can that be? As strange of a notion as it is, Henry suffers from a gene mutation which causes him to travel through time, not knowing when this will happen, or where he will end up. That’s the reason Clare met him at such a young age: he time-traveled back to when she was a little girl. Why? That’s for you to discover.
The story itself is beautiful, but can be confusing at times. Like Henry, it sometimes shifts from the “present” to the past, speaking of moments that have already happened long before the characters began telling their story. The interesting thing, however, is that the entire novel gives you the sense that everything has already happened, as if present, past and future are one and the same, happening together over and over again. It crushes the idea of the linearity of time, thus throwing away one of the few things the characters can take for granted. And yet, both Clare and Henry have one thing to take for granted that most of us can’t: their future. They know most of what is going to happen before it actually happens. However, instead of giving them the appearance of being in control because they know, this throws them in a state of almost perpetual helplessness, because they can change nothing. Everything has already happened, so they are nothing but puppets at the hands of some capricious law of nature that remains unknown.
All in all, a gorgeously crafted story that exposes its characters just as they are: followed by a miracle which turned into a curse, and yet trying to live as happily as possible. They are honest and open, ready to speak of every single detail of their life, no matter how uncomfortable, strange, or just plain sad it might be.
Now, for the lessons:
1. “Super powers” come at a cost. Well, it’s not like any of us actually have to worry about being “dislocated in time”, but there are things we can derive from this. If we blend this lesson into reality, we come to understand that many of the things we wished we had (better job, social status etc) are more “expensive” than we might initially guess. Some of these things come at a greater cost than money can cover.
2. Live in the present. This is such a used line, that I’m almost ashamed of writing it down. Almost. This is one of the things that no matter how many times we hear, it still makes no difference. We have a left hemisphere constantly preoccupied with what we did and what we will do, which means that the present becomes almost forgotten somewhere between the “why-did-I-do-it?” and the “what-will-I-do?”. In Henry’s life, the present moment already happened, as I discussed earlier, and though we are not cursed with an ability to see what the future holds, we still manage to lose the present, almost pushing it in the past. Let’s start thinking of “What-am-I-doing?”, for a change.
If you’d like to read more about living in the moment, click here.
There’s one more thing I’d like to add before ending: it isn’t a lesson as much as it is just something to think about: if you had to pick between knowing when someone dear to you will pass away, and not knowing, so that their death completely surprises you, what would you pick? This novel speaks of both cases, though it concentrates more on the first, suggesting once again that knowledge can sometimes be a curse.