Waiting is a chore, and a chore done very well by Clare Abshire, heroine of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, who beautifully displays the art of domestic patience while she waits for Henry to appear to her. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a story composed largely of angst-ridden romance of an adolescent.
Clare meets Henry when she’s six years old, and is immediately amazed by this naked man who appears in the meadow and vanishes before her eyes. He provides a list of dates where she can meet him in bring him coffee and clothes and leaves her with the notion that she and him become very close in the years to come. And so begins a story of adolescent romance that borders on pedophilia.
A good portion of the book is set in Clare’s adolescence, and during this hormone saturated period she demonstrations periods of fickleness such as wanting to know about the future and then complaining that everything is already planned out for her. Then when she finally does meet Henry, she is disappointed that he is not the man she meets in the meadow but an insufferable drug addict.
The book is set up so that the larger sections are divided by the perspectives of Henry and Clare. I found this format hard to enjoy, because it seems like Niffenegger is unable to give Henry or Clare a clear voice. There are times where they both talk in flowery poetic language and times where they both speak as though they’re narrating a journey for a police report. This particularly comes across when a minor character called Kimy, who is a Korean immigrant, speaks both broken and perfect English in the same scene several times. Making it impossible to tell who was narrating that section.
While the storyline intrigued me, I found that there were times the book got a little long winded with scenes that did nothing to advance the plot. There are several scenes about Clare working in her art studio but they never, specifically towards the end, amount to anything that satisfies the reader.
However, the last nail in the coffin for this book, was Niffenegger’s lack of education in genetics. She makes it known early on that Henry’s ability to time travel did not come about till he was a boy, however, when Henry and Clare decide to conceive she decides to activate this genetic trait during gestation with no real explanation or support given. Even for someone who has a basic understanding of genetics, the idea seems a little far-fetched.
At the end of the day, when you consider The Time Traveler’s Wife, you have to realize that mass taste probably isn’t something you should look for in your next read. While the story is good, if your taste runs more towards traditional science fiction, I would look elsewhere.
FINAL GRADE: C-