This book has been a huge bestseller for the last several years and recently was lamed up into a movie–but if you’ve had exposure to neither, the title gets straight to the point. Henry is a librarian who time-travels uncontrollably (Billy Pilgrim as imagined by Nicholas Sparks) and Clare is his (eventual) wife. Their partnership is wildly unstable but also pre-written in time: Henry, from various points in the future, keeps materializing in a meadow where he meets a tiny redheaded child named Clare, and thus is their weird, earth-shattering love born. It’s good that the timeline is a little complicated, because the cadence of the narrative jumps is just sharp enough to conceal the fact that you’re going to cry at the end, like you did at the end of The Notebook where they were all dying on each other in the old folks’ bed.
So although this book is full of interesting, fairly extreme, gritty things (drugs, bloody fetuses, frostbite, amputations, death, iron cages, giant sculptures of birds, etc), it’s really just best-in-show in the Doomed Love category. But I don’t hate it. I love this book, actually, although I can’t read it anymore because I read it too much in high school. And I’ll freely admit what got me: in the same way that only a really disgusting night can make you truly appreciate sobriety, the jaggedness of the Henry/Clare story recalibrates your appreciation of ordinary between-moments in love. Sometimes I think there’s no greater luxury than that of being able to blink awake in a bed with someone, and love them inconsequentially, purely, like you love the thunderstorm that puts you to sleep–and all the while be anchored by the knowledge that the stakes are low. And Audrey Niffenegger did really write a memorable pairing here; the love between Henry and Clare is so powerful as to be impossible, which is apparently what people want to read about and warp their minds accordingly.
Be warned, some of the writing is pretty ridiculous. Sentences like: “We laugh and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost, or dead, or far away: right now we are here, and nothing can mar our perfection, or steal the joy of this perfect moment.” YIKES. That sounds exactly like something I would furiously try to etch into a tree trunk if I were tripping on mushrooms.