Pin It

Book Review 

by Kris Dinnison

The Time Traveler's Wife was, for me, one those rare and wonderful reading experiences. From the first chapter of Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel, I was hooked. Five hundred pages later, I was grieving the end, not wanting to leave these characters or lose track of their lives.

Niffenegger tells the story of Clare Abshire, a talented paper artist, and Henry DeTamble, a librarian who restores books, listens to the Violent Femmes and just happens to be a time traveler. Henry has what Niffenegger calls a Chrono-Displacement Disorder, a genetic anomaly that causes him to spontaneously, and uncontrollably, travel to another time and place. Sometimes this is a pleasant experience, as when an adult Henry time travels and is able to give his five-year-old self some advice during his first time-travel experience. But many times it is a terrifying experience of suddenly being naked and vulnerable and not knowing where or when he is.

But Niffenegger does not get too caught up in the mind-blowing possibilities of how many Henrys might be at any given place at any given time. This is, at its core, a love story. Her choice to structure the novel in two voices (Clare's and Henry's) is extremely effective. She skillfully maintains their distinct voices and concerns, and gives us a sense both of Clare's more linear experience of their relationship and of Henry's sense of dislocation.

For example, when he and Clare first meet, Henry is 36 and Clare is only six. Henry makes a series of visits to Clare as she is growing up, so by the time they meet in 'real time', (when Clare is 23 and Henry is 31), Clare has known Henry her whole life and knows they will be married. However, Henry has not yet met Clare and has no idea who she is.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the time-travel device is some sort of gimmick that the author uses to spice up her novel. The Time Traveler's Wife is peopled by complex characters the reader values and cares about. Niffenegger's skill as a storyteller rests in her ability to create details, images and moments that are disturbing and unforgettable, and then weave them together into a story that readers don't want to end.

Publication date: 04/01/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • When a Horse Isn't a Horse
  • When a Horse Isn't a Horse

    Gambling machines help Idaho's racing industries limp along — but maybe not for long
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • 'The Time Has Come'
  • 'The Time Has Come'

    Idaho considers protections for sexual orientation; plus, a new Spokane City Council candidate emerges
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • Freeze Frame
  • Freeze Frame

    Some want to limit the release of footage from police body cameras. What would that mean for Spokane?
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
PAC Con Palouse

PAC Con Palouse @ Schweitzer Event Center (SEL)

Sat., Jan. 31, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Kris Dinnison

  • Jan of the Jungle

    You would be hard-pressed to find a library in town that doesn't carry Jan Brett's books, or a kid who hasn't encountered at least one along the way. The Mitten, Brett's most ubiquitous title, is a staple in schools and reading programs a
    • Oct 7, 2004
  • Book Review

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen fan in possession of some moments of leisure must be in want of a good book. And the book industry has obliged us. We have been offered Bridget Jones's Diary and Pride, Prejudice
    • Aug 26, 2004
  • Garrison Keiller

    Get Lit! will provide Spokane with a host of opportunities to hobnob with literary giants. But few of those figures will be as familiar in aspect and voice as Garrison Keillor. With his fuzzy caterpillar eyebrows, ironic smile, and tradem
    • Apr 8, 2004
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Say 'No' to Fear

    Why Spokane ought to embrace its roots as an immigrant-friendly place
    • Jan 21, 2015
  • Crossroads

    A high-profile retailer is eyeing a particular block of downtown Spokane; what that might mean for the Central City Line
    • Jan 7, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation