Do you remember the striking cover of Audrey Niffenegger’s first novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife? It’s simple but intriguing. A little girl, in knee socks and Mary Janes, stands in a field next to an empty pair of men’s dress shoes neatly arranged on a picnic blanket. A thermos is tucked behind her. Everything is tidy and in order. Everything is ready. But, ready for what? Why is the girl alone? Where is the man the shoes belong to? What’s happened?
You can’t help but be pulled in by this arresting image, and the novel is just the same. Niffenegger places her characters in situations where they are waiting, someone or something is missing, and you get the feeling that all is not what it seems but you are compelled to find out more.
This untraditional love story follows Henry DeTamble, a well-meaning librarian with a bit of a time problem, and Clare Abshire, an abstract paper artist, who circle each other through Chicago and through time, as Henry shifts in and out of the present, meeting younger and older versions of Clare as he travels. The beauty of the novel lies in the ways Clare and Henry find to stay connected as they are inescapably pulled apart again and again.
Compelling and unnerving, Niffenegger’s knack for evoking longing is powerful and irresistible. If you’ve never read any of her work , this book is the perfect way for you to get swept up in the strangeness and the mystery of her wonderful writing and find out what you’re missing.
The Time Traveler’s Wife has just been reissued by Scribner in paperback. It includes much new material, including a special excerpt from Audrey’s new novel about Henry and Clare’s daughter, Alba, who will be continuing the family legacy of slipping in and out of time. But even with all the new material and the new publishing house we are keeping the old jacket art,because when you have a cover that works so well at telling an entire story in one image you make sure to keep it.
Is time a parabola? If you asked the couple at the heart of this remarkable story, Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course, they'd probably both say yes. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.