About a year and a half ago I started getting all these frantic emails from my female friends urging me to read a novel called "The Time Traveler's Wife," by Audrey Niffenegger. If you're a girl, you've probably read it, and you probably aren't going to like what I'm going to say here in this public forum, and that is: I didn't like this book. Also, it didn't make me cry. CALM DOWN. I mean, what ever happened to people being allowed to have opinions about things like books and music and movies without the threat of being yelled at or even brutally maimed?
For those of you who haven't read this book, it's about, well, here's some of the synopsis from Amazon.com:
(by the way, if you have no time for synopses that involve brutally confusing melodrama, you should probably skip ahead to where I start writing again)
"Niffenegger has written a soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes, and one that skates nimbly around a huge conundrum at the heart of the book: Henry De Tamble, a rather dashing librarian at the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, finds himself unavoidably whisked around in time. He disappears from a scene in, say, 1998 to find himself suddenly, usually without his clothes, which mysteriously disappear in transit, at an entirely different place 10 years earlier-or later. During one of these migrations, he drops in on beautiful teenage Clare Abshire, an heiress in a large house on the nearby Michigan peninsula, and a lifelong passion is born. The problem is that while Henry's age darts back and forth according to his location in time, Clare's moves forward in the normal manner, so the pair are often out of sync."
Not really? I TOTALLY AGREE. In a world with car bombs and starvation and racism and life-threatening illnesses and love stories that are actually sad (listen to StoryCorps on NPR, for instance, if you really want to start bawling), I don't feel I have time for tales as weirdly contrived as this. I mean, in your typical time travel story - take "Back to the Future" - the time traveler goes back in time, their mother falls in love with them or whatever, and then they return to the present. In "The Time Traveler's Wife," this guy Henry is continually going back and forth between periods of just a few years and the present so not only are you royally confused, but it's just so unbelievable. You're supposed to sit there and be ok with the fact that this guy was just born with this ability. I think the author even informs us that, before birth, he would disappear from his mother's womb or something. Seriously.
To counter the unbelievable nature of this terribly tragic gift, however, Niffenegger gives Henry these very human traits. Like the fact that time travel makes him feel sick. So not only is he constantly leaving the woman he loves, but every time he time travels he ends up somewhere cold and naked and nauseous, and you want to feel sorry for him, but it's really hard, because, I mean - that time I got food poisoning? I was cold and well - not naked - but nauseous, and that was REAL. A REAL THING THAT HAPPENS TO HUMANS.
Also, the book, as you may have guessed, is ultra serious. Not one even mildly funny thing occurs in this novel. And I like humor interspersed with my grief.
So what I'm saying is that it was hard for me to find this book sad, even though I'd been promised by fanatics that I would cry the whole way through. One person told me that the reason the book was so sad was that it was a love that "truly, could never be." I guess so but I didn't end up feeling that bad for the characters. Call me heartless, but I'm not. I cry all the time while reading, and maybe in a later post I'll list all the books that will really move you, with good reason.
Again, I'm only sharing my opinions this week so go ahead and read the book if you so desire. The entire rest of the world pretty much - critics included - will tell you that it's "totally so amazing." The only person who sided with me was our friend Kristen, who didn't get what was so great about "The Time Traveler's Wife," either, thus proving her immeasurable awesomeness (Kristen, I'm really sorry to take you down with me and I hope people aren't beating you up at work right now).