I have a story. (I know, I always have a story.) Years ago, everyone said that The Time Traveler's Wife (from now on referred to as TTTW) was the best book they'd ever read, best book of the year, best, best, best. I bought the book, and there it sat. It was kinda long. My BFF and my mother said they couldn't get through it. Excuses. Then the movie came out. Oh Lord, NO, I can't watch the movie first. That is against the book lover's laws of the universe. But ultimately I DID see the movie first, and now I think that blunder served me well. I will explain why in just a minute.
Synopsis: Henry is a time-traveler, an affliction caused by a genetic defect, and has been since he was five years old. He never knows when he is going to travel, where he is going to travel, or for how long. His orbit of visitations seem to revolve around his mother, who died tragically when he was young, and Clare, the beautiful redhead who he will eventually marry. Henry and Clare seem to be a destined couple, as Henry has been traveling back in time to spend moments with her since she was 8. When Clare is 20 and Henry is 28, they meet in "real" time and begin the business of living and loving with this disruptive and isolating illness.
Traveling back and forth in time can be a complicated matter. Henry knows things that happen in the future, and often certain facts must be kept to himself. How on earth do you tell someone when they are going to die, that they will give birth to a handicapped baby, or that the twin towers will fall to the ground? At times, Henry will apparate into sub-zero temperatures, into oncoming traffic, into places he cannot escape. How can he be certain to stay grounded at the most critical times? How can he condemn Clare to live such an uncertain life?
My thoughts: Nothing on earth, not even the movie, could have prepared me for what might likely be the most beautiful, most moving love story I have ever read in my life. I've always claimed that I'm not a romantic, but this book knocked me on my cynical ass.
I can see where some might have some initial struggles with the story. While Clare's life is linear, Henry jumps around in time all over the place. Had I not seen the movie first, and had a general idea of the plot, I might have been confused. The 43 year-old man and the 8 year-old girl scenario was weird too at first, but whatever. Nothing inappropriate occurred, and it set up the notion that their fates were intertwined. My advice to those that didn't finish the book: TRUST AND BE VIGILANT. It will pay off.
In addition to the plot sneak peak from the movie, the phenomenal casting forever burned the faces of Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams on my brain as Henry and Clare. Perfect, perfect, perfect. These two are so beautiful.
There is so much cleverness, so much emotion, so much charm packed in one book here, it was almost more than my little heart could take at times. Towards the end, I did have to pull my car over and sit and get myself under control. And just when you think things couldn't get any more perfect, in walk the REFERENCES. Special places around Chicago that really exist. Music (particularly punk). Classic literature. They were like little hidden nuggets of flavor.
Now suddenly, I see why all of you out there had such trouble with Niffenegger's second novel "Her Fearful Symmetry" (which I liked alot but didn't love). Expectations, my word. It is probably all good that I didn't read this book first. Now my heart has been claimed.
Just so you think I haven't gone completely soft on you, I do have one tiny slightly negative comment. The author used two words peppered throughout the story (four letter c-words that describe male and female anatomy) that jarred me when I heard them. You can scream obscenities at me all day and I don't really care, but in a story so beautiful, these words didn't belong. I was confused as to why they were used, because it didn't add a single thing to the experience.
A few words about the audio production: William Hope (narrating as Henry) and Laurel Lefkow (narrating as Clare) were both new to me, but they embodied their characters. They had beautiful smooth voices that were genuine and full of emotion. I loved every second of listening.
6 out of 5 stars (and now on my best ever list)