I'm in two book clubs right now. That's a lot of reading, which is fine because I read fast and read a lot. It also means that I wind up reading books that I might not have picked up otherwise. Sometimes, that's not a good thing. In my brief membership in what I called the Everybody's Mormon But Me book club, I read two books and hated both of them. But usually, I read books that I absolutely love and might not have grabbed off the shelves otherwise.
I might well have read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and I'm glad that my Bad Genious Book Club picked it so I would. It was an absolutely beautiful story that I can't stop thinking about.
Henry is the time traveler of the title, and Claire is the wife. Henry has a genetic disorder (explained in adequate, but not boring detail) that causes him to travel back and forth in time, usually during times of stress. He can't control when he time travels or where he goes, but he tends to go to places or to meet people who are important to him. As a result, he travels frequently to meet Claire, his future wife.
The first time Claire meets Henry, she is six and he is in his forties. They have clandestine meetings throughout Claire's childhood and adolescence, and Claire falls in love with him. Henry, however, doesn't meet Claire until he's 28 and Claire is 20. It is fascinating to see how time folds in on itself. In the earlier meetings, Henry knows much about their future; in later meetings, Claire does.
The book made me think a lot about free will. Henry has discovered that you cannot change your past. His mother dies horribly in a car accident, and Henry time travels repeatedly to that scene, but finds himself powerless to change it. But does Claire have free will? If she hadn't known from an early age that she'd end up marrying Henry, would she have asked him out when she meets him at 20? If she hadn't known that one of the most trying periods of their life would turn out well, would she have handled it differently? If Henry hadn't told her that as an adult, she loves coffee with cream and sugar, would she have?
There are, of course, elements of science fiction to the book, but first and foremost, it is a love story. Claire is a Penelope, waiting for her traveller to return to her, and Henry is Odysseus, trying desperately to get to her. How they make their unusual lives work is a real testament to their love.
I can't wait for book club discussion to begin. In the meantime, Steve is reading the book and I am loving talking about it with him. This was a great start to 2007's reading.