The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, is worth spending time on. This national bestseller pulls readers in with its enchanting plot that revolves around the beauty of love, and what happens to it when time is running out. By the end of the novel, Niffenegger does a good job conveying her belief that despite all odds, both traditional and untraditional love can survive.
Made famous by its major motion picture in 2009, this novel has received just as much literary attention as it has media attention. In addition to being a New York Times Besteller, a Los Angeles Times Bestseller, a Washington Post Bestseller and a Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller, it was also chosen for the Today Show Book Club, was one of People’s Top Ten Books of the Year, and was a Book Sense 76 Selection.
In the novel, Niffenegger writes in the present tense throughout, and keeps the structure a diary format. The two main characters, Clare and Henry, go back and forth between their first person perspectives. Each diary entry has a title, such as “Married Life” or “Christmas Eve.” Some of them are more interesting, with titles like “After the End” or “A Drop of Blood in a Bowl of Milk.” This diary entry structure works well for The Time Traveler’s Wife, because it takes readers right into that moment and evokes a feeling of intimacy and closeness with the characters, rather than just one of reading about someone else’s story.
The characterization of Clare and Henry is one of the key components that makes this story such an adored one. Clare, just a young girl when she meets time-traveling Henry, is struck with love but also is overwhelmingly innocent, and at a young age learns who she wants to be with forever. Although the story revolves around Henry’s “Chrono-Displacement Disorder,” the title says it all – this is a story about the Time Traveler’s wife, and how her love overcomes the quite literal test of time.
In addition to strong characterization, something else that contributes to the success of The Time Traveler’s Wife is Niffenegger’s fear of the cliché. Instead of a predictable happy ending, Niffenegger intertwines her version of twists and turns, an unexpected delight that keeps the story moving forward. Although the ending is moving and incredibly romantic, it is not a typical love story.
Lastly, the way that Clare and Henry write about each other in their diary entries is touching. As much as readers come to love Henry and Clare as individual characters, there is nothing more that readers love than the love Clare and Henry have for each other. With quotes like “I will never leave you, even though you’re always leaving me,” and “But you make me happy. It’s living up to being happy that’s the difficult part,” Niffenegger leaves us captivated.
Of course, all of these circumstances point to an inevitably sappy end, and sappy is what we get. But it’s also a worthwhile ending, one that is heartbreaking in its implications about love and life and sacrifice. At the end of the 536 pages, readers are left not only wiping away tears but feeling appreciative in The Time Traveler’s Wife’s ability to portray that there is nothing in life more timeless than love. “It’s dark now and I am tired,” Henry writes to Clare. “I love you, always. Time is nothing.”