The hardcover version of this book is over 500 pages. I read it in two sittings and it was a struggle to ever put it down.
To call this book a romance novel would not be accurate. To call it a science fiction novel wouldn’t be entirely accurate either. Author Audrey Niffenegger manages to weave these two genres together into a unique story that is touching, funny, sweet, and sad enough for the romantic and cynic in all of us.
What could be a simple love story between two people, Henry and Clare, is complicated by the fact that Henry has a disease that causes him to jump in and out of different periods of time.
Henry, a Chicago librarian, has “Chrono Displacement” disorder, a problem that has afflicted him since childhood. He is unwillingly shuffled around through time, to various meaningful periods in his own life.
Because of this, from Henry’s point of view, the first time he meets Clare is when they are both in their twenties. Yet at their first meeting, Clare is already in love with him. When he reaches his 40s, Henry goes back in time and meets a 6-year-old Clare, then realizes that from her point of view this is the first time they’ve met.
The story is told from both characters’ points of view, so the reader can sympathize with both Henry and Clare, as they struggle to remain connected to a loved one who is unaware of their past, or future, together.
Like a “normal” couple, they try to work together to overcome the obstacles presented by this disease. Henry has to deal with the secrecy and guilt that come along with his illness and frequent absences. Meanwhile, Clare struggles with the loneliness and resentment of a wife always left behind.
Though this novel has a science fiction aspect, it still manages to feel very real. Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship will find that they can identify with these characters, their triumphs and failures, their fights and frustrations, their dedication and devotion.
Theirs is an intricately and expertly woven tale about love, sacrifice, and taking the good with the bad, culminating in a bittersweet ending that will satisfy both hopeful and hopeless romantics.