Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, was published in 2003 and was her first book. It’s a love story about Henry, a man with a genetic disease that forces him to move across time in unpredictable ways, and Clare, his wife, an artist who must deal with his frequent absences.
When she started writing the novel, Niffenegger was frustrated with love and used it as a metaphor for her failed relationships. The novel’s title was inspired by the central relationship in the story, which came to Niffenegger unexpectedly. Both science fiction and romance have been assigned to the book.
MacAdam/Cage, a tiny publishing house in San Francisco, California, published the book. After an endorsement from author and family friend Scott Turow on NBC’s Today, the book became a bestseller.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, the novel had sold almost 2.5 million copies as of March 2009. Niffenegger’s unusual perspective on time travel was praised by several reviewers.
Others attacked her writing style as melodramatic and the plot as emotionally trite, while others commended her characterization of the pair, praising their emotional depth. Exclusive Books’ Boeke Prize and a British Book Award were awarded to the novel.
Summary of The Plot
The novel tells the experiences of Henry DeTamble (born 1963), a librarian at Chicago’s Newberry Library, and his wife, Clare Anne Abshire (born 1971), a paper sculpture artist, through alternating first-person perspectives.
Henry is suffering from a rare hereditary condition known as Chrono-Impairment. Henry’s condition leads him to inadvertently travel across time. When Clare, 20, meets 28-year-old Henry at the Newberry Library in 1991, he has never seen her before, despite the fact that she has known him for most of her life.
At the age of five, Henry begins time travel, jumping forward and backward in his own timeline. He has no control over when he vanishes, where he goes, or how long his journeys will endure. His vacation locations, on the other hand, are linked to his subconscious—he frequently visits places and periods from his own past.
Henry’s time travel is triggered by certain situations, such as stress, and he often goes jogging to be calm and in the present. In the future, he looks for drugs that can help him control his time travel.
He also consults with Dr. Kendrick, a geneticist. Henry can’t carry anything with him into the future or the past, thus he always comes naked and has to fend for himself in terms of clothing, shelter, and food. Lock-picking, self-defense, and pickpocketing are among the survival skills he has acquired. He learns a lot of stuff through previous versions of himself.
Henry begins to travel to Clare’s childhood and adolescence in South Haven, Michigan, beginning in 1977 when she is just six years old, when their timelines “naturally” converge at the library—their first meeting in his chronology.
Henry provides Clare a list of the dates he will appear on one of his early trips (from Clare’s perspective), which she puts in a notebook so she will remember to supply him with clothing and food when he arrives. Henry mistakenly mentions that they will marry in the future during another visit.
They form a tight bond over time. Henry assists Clare in frightening and humiliating a boy who has harmed her. In 1989, on Clare’s eighteenth birthday, Henry pays her a visit, during which they make love for the first time. After that, they are separated for two years until they reunite at the library.
Episode 5 of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’: Explained Ending – how Did Henry Win Clare?
Henry went to her room and discovered a drawing she had made of his younger self when she was 16. She was obvious in her love and devotion for him. Henry understood Clare’s anxiety over the day, and he wanted to be the man she adored. He begged Alicia, who worked as a hairdresser, to cut his hair short so he could look like old Henry. Clare, on the other hand, dashed to the clearing.
She was heartbroken since the clearing had always seemed wonderful to her. She could see the dirt surrounding her now that she was older. These were the aspects that she had purposefully ignored as a child. She recalled the pleasant memories, but the location had changed. She sat down, dissatisfied and sorrowful.
She wondered if there was a difference between reality and fantasy. She had waited her entire life for the perfect man, but now that he had arrived, he was nothing like she had imagined. It was no longer the same area where they used to spend hours talking. Her dream was evaporating before her eyes. Henry came at the precise moment.
His hair was now short, he wore his shirt tucked in, and he resembled old Henry. Clare was requested by Henry to tell him about how they used to spend their time in the clearing. She told him about how she grew up with him and how it was the spot where they first kissed and when he proposed to her. Old Henry had left after requesting her hand in marriage, but she now knew the answer.
She was all set to marry Henry, who stood in front of her. She admitted that she had loved him since the first time they met at the library, but she had expected someone else. Henry promised to be someone different than she had imagined.
The fifth episode of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” finishes with the story of how young Henry won Clare’s heart. It also sheds light on their odd connection, in which he was forced to act as a future version of himself. At the start of their relationship, they had to make some adjustments and compromises in the hopes of eventually figuring out their ideal partnership.