Oh my. That was intense. I finished this book just before going to sleep last night, and for a while I thought it was going to keep me up. It broke my heart. It confirmed my deepest fears. It was fascinating and wonderful and sexy and completely unbelievable and totally true. I hardly know what to say.
So it's about this guy, Henry, who time travels, and not in some metaphorical sense. He actually disappears from wherever he is in the present and materializes, stark naked, in some other place and time. He has no control over when or where he goes. It's also about Clare, the woman who marries him and loves him completely and puts up with all the annoyances of being married to a guy who might not be present for the wedding day with nary a complaint. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But it works. Their love is so beautiful and palpable and hot, it will make you swoon.
But here's what I think this book is really about. The fact that everything has already happened and is always going to happen, that none of it is under our control. We all like to think that if we work hard and make the right decisions and have the right intentions, we can bend life to our wishes. But it is all an illusion. Henry visits his past, but he cannot change his future. He knows he is going to be shot, and yet he cannot move out of the way. Everything is happening just as it was always going to. Clare knew that marrying this guy was probably going to be a disaster, and yet their marriage was something that simply was. It was not a choice. It was a fact. That's kind of how I've always felt about my own marriage. (Not the disaster part. Just the idea that this person had become my family, and that I had no choice in the matter.)
This book is also about the impossibility of holding onto anything. No matter how solid, how permanent, this moment might seem, it will vanish. Everything does. Last night, I held onto my husband and was terrified. It could happen at any moment, the vagaries of time and fate could take him from me. Solid flesh and bone can turn to vapor in a heartbeat. Anything, anyone, can be taken from us. Henry could look up his own obituary, know the exact moment of his death, but really he is just like all of us. We all live with the knowledge of death hanging over us. Sometimes I don't know how we do it.
These are realizations I came to well before reading this book--and they scare the hell out of me. And so does this book, because it does not give me a window into a place where I can be OK with this stuff. Henry's death is unhappy and violent, full of regret about all he is losing. Clare never gets over his loss. Is this life all about losing things, gradually, piece by piece, until we are broken and limbless? Our parents die, our spouses, sometimes even (oh god please no) our children. Our bodies whither. Our physical pain increases. I have developed this fear recently that things are only going to get worse from here. I have come all the way up. I have married and found my career and bought my house and had my child, and now I am at the top of the roller coaster, as Clare says. Now all that is left is to start losing things.
I know my mind is in the wrong place. I need to bring it back to the here and now. I know that suffering is the space between where we are now, this moment, and where our minds are. My fear is an illusion, created by me. I'm trying to stop, but this book did not help. I love it still.