Monday, March 22, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife and other Love Stories

My Girl, Bibliophile, asked me to write about Chris Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden, a book that I read right after she finished it. I like to do what she asks and yet I was stumped for two very long moments trying to remember what the book was about...I chatted back that I might write about it IF I could remember it.
Slowly the book came back to me and it became clear that I really did not have much to say about the book other than that I usually like Chris Bohjalian and I liked this one...but...and therein lies the problem. For me, Chris Bohjalian and Jodi Picoult always have a BUT.
It's but, this sounds familiar or but, I think I read this, or but, there were a lot of twists and turns but the map was still so clear it was never a surprise. In defense of Secrets of Eden, there was one unexpected surprise...wish I could remember what it was.
So, because I am an independent thinker prone to do the opposite of what I am told/requested to do, I began letting my mind wander.
I started thinking about breakfast this morning and how I got to see someone I hadn't seen since grammar school. We found each other on Facebook and he and his partner were visiting Portland so we arranged to meet. I have very fond feelings for this "boy" from my past. We had lunch together almost every day and I vividly remember both his lunch box and mine. I began thinking about all the different kinds of love we experience during our life on this planet and the time in which it spans. I thought about learning in church about love for one another, love for our life partner, and love for God. And maybe I'm a little ADD but putting the thoughts of love, time, and God together made me think of a quote from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Claire is silent. Her pragmatism and romantic feelings about Jesus and Mary are, at thirteen, almost equally balanced. A year ago she would have said "God" without hesitation. In ten years she will vote for determinism, and ten years after that Claire will believe that the universe is arbitrary. That if God exists he does not hear our prayers, that cause and effect are inescapable and brutal, but meaningless.
And after that? I don't know. But right now Claire sits on the threshold of adolescence with her faith in one hand and her growing skepticism in another, and all she can do is try to juggle them, or squeeze them together until they fuse. She shakes her head. " I don't know. I want God. Is that ok?"

I guess my point is that I read The Time Traveler's Wife for the first time about four years ago and it still sticks with me. It is a fairly long book and yet I remember most of the backdrop and even a lot of the obscure references. It is one of the very few books that I have read a second time in my adulthood because there is just not enough time left to read everything that I want to devour before I die. But this one I did. Why? Because it is amazing the way that Niffenegger never lost her place in the story. For a book that hops back and forth through several decades, places, and supporting characters, never once did I feel like she took the easy way out. It was simply amazing.

I suppose it could be argued that I am a sucker for a good love story. I can quote large blocks of both Love Story and The Way We Were. I read and saw Endless Love as a teenager and still have the song on my Ipod...and...I still think that Joey and Dawson belonged together. That being said, it is not often that a book sticks with you like a good friend that you want to go back and visit.

Seeing Philip this morning was amazing and delightful. Two adjectives that I have no hesistation attaching to Niffenegger's novel. I hope to see and enjoy the company of Philip again. The Time Traveler's Wife may just sit on my shelf because I don't know if my heart can take losing Henry a third time.

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