The Time Traveler’s Wife

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger questions what might happen if time were not a one-way street, if it were possible to revisit important moments in life again, and again, and again. Henry De Tamble is such a time traveler. In moments of stress, a genetic glitch dumps him into his own past, and occasionally into the future. He meets his wife, Clare Abshire, for the first time when he is twenty-eight and she is twenty; however, she has known him since she was six. For Henry, time-travel means arriving naked and vomiting at some other moment of his life, always vulnerable and sometimes in danger. For Clare, loving a time traveler means long days and years of waiting for him to reappear, and never knowing at what age or in what shape he will arrive.

Although Henry is the time traveler, the novel, as its title implies, is ultimately Clare’s story, a story of great joy, poignancy, and pain. A modern Cassandra, Clare knows the future, but is unable to change it. Her childhood memories of Henry’s visits take on great significance as her life unfolds. Told through an interweaving of Henry’s and Clare’s distinctive voices, this novel is about love, and about fate, about the way two people are meant to be together, and how they are torn apart.

Niffenegger handles the paradoxes of time-travel with aplomb, and her characters with tenderness. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a thoroughly satisfying and thoroughly magnificent story.