The Time Traveler’s Wife

Audrey Niffenegger

I kept hearing this one mentioned by various people with that certain weighty esteem that only favorites get, so I wanted to know why people loved it so. It is, quite simply, about a time traveler’s wife, or really, a time traveler and his wife, as the story seesaws between their perspectives. Despite the vague incredulity of a person’s chromosomes making him shift in time, the book has a similar delightful mindfuck quality as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s hard to comment too much on the plot without destroying the fun, but Niffenegger does an excellent job of establishing a shifting linearity and keeping it coherent.

All the pop culture, or moreso the not-quite-mainstream, pop-culture references gives a very modern feel, in the sense that I wonder how this will stand up over time. For some reason I kept picturing this book being taught in high school English classes in 20 years with teachers explaining who the Violent Femmes were — though I guess there are a lot more aspects of the book that would probably prevent that from ever happening. In the earlier parts of the story, those references give a more textured context to the time shifting, making every present more alive, but of course, once things start moving into the area of things that hadn’t yet happened (i. e., anything past the early 2000s when the book was written), these references disappear. As that is largely when the story starts to wind down, it does lend an appropriately thinning quality to the story.

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