The extended love story between Henry and Clare is indeed lyrical, often touching, with vivid images drawn from the past and the comfort of the present. Henry has a rare genetic disorder, one that renders him capable of traveling back and forth in his own life, although he has no control over when the phenomenon occurs. He never knows when it will happen and Henry frequently finds himself stranded in another part of his life, naked and without resources. He has learned to live with his circumstances, making use of each journey to learn more about the world and his place in it.
Henry's travels are both a blessing and a curse. Due to his strange wandering, Henry has been able to see the mother he can barely remember, who died in a tragic accident, appreciating her beauty and spirit, watching as a bystander what memory has denied him. Henry also meets Clare long before they meet in real time, when she is still a child. Henry has observed Clare's development, seen all the changes from girlhood to young woman, praying all the time that she will wait for him. Henry and Clare's relationship is certainly unique, fraught with the ambiguity of Henry's condition; yet they accept life within such particular constraints and joyfully commit their hearts to each other's keeping.
Henry and Clare never enjoy the free expression of a normal relationship, remaining vigilant, should the future step in and separate them forever. They are perhaps more intimately aware of each precious moment together, less inclined to squander their energy on the inconsequential. In accepting Henry's love, Clare has accepted the nature of Henry's life and its limitations, grounded in flesh and blood reality. They pay a high price for this lifelong love affair, realizing that nothing worth having is easily won. Certainly, there are moments when they fear the unknown and cling to the one constant of their deep affection for one another.
The powerful emotional ending of this novel contains shattering revelations, abrupt slashes of brutal reality. Niffenegger develops her wonderful characters with great compassion and the grace to accept their often-difficult circumstances, as well as the blessings. Don't be deceived by Henry and Clare's easy charm or heady romance, as they draw you into their intimate circle, complicit with their dreams and disappointments. Be careful: they will break your heart. Luan Gaines/2003.
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The novel tells the story of Henry DeTamble (born 1963), a librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and his wife, Clare Abshire (born 1971), an artist from a wealthy family who makes paper sculptures. Henry has a rare genetic disorder, which comes to be known as Chrono-Displacement during his lifetime, that causes him to involuntarily travel through time. When 20-year-old Clare meets 28-year-old Henry at the Newberry Library in 1991, he has never seen her before, although she has known him most of her life. Clare's past is still in Henry's future. Henry begins to experience the events in Clare's childhood at the same time that he experiences life with the adult Clare in the present. In the novel, the future cannot be changed, and many tragic events are foreshadowed in the past.
Henry is unable to control his time traveling: when he leaves, where he goes, or how long his trip will last. His destinations are tied to his subconscious, as Henry most often travels to places he has visited or will eventually visit. Very often, Henry is taken back to the moment his mother died in a car accident that he survived, and is...