Praise for THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE
"Niffenegger's storytelling is bold confident and entrancing. Her prose is warm and inviting. And her characters are created with heartfelt sincerity. There's a lot to love in this book... The Time Traveler's Wife is an engrossing read that keeps both emotions and intellect entertained." --The Gazette (Montreal)
"This is a seamless, soaring love story... As the last pages of this 500-page novel loomed closer, I felt all of the wonderful emotions of having read an unabashed, brilliantly written love story...[It] will leave you laughing, crying, and babbling incoherently to your family and friends who will, no doubt, attempt to steal the book away when you aren't looking. Be warned. Buy that special someone their own copy--now." --The Sun Times (Owen Sound)
"A highly original first novel... Niffenegger has written a soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes... It is a fair tribute to [Niffenegger's] skill and sensibility to say that the book leaves a reader with the impression of life's riches and strangeness rather than of easy thrills." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"So here's the next The Lovely Bones... A rare book."
--Evening Standard (UK)
"Niffenegger keeps her readers' attention with a faultless ear for dialogue and with the freshness of her premise." --National Post
"[This] inventive and poignant writing is well worth the trip."
"Niffenegger creates real characters with flawed, human, loving characteristics and with real and extraordinary problems... Niffenegger succeeds in telling a tender tale of love and allows the reader to rediscover an old fascination with the idea of time travel."
--Winnipeg Free Press
"Pick up Niffenegger's book and you'll experience the visceral thrill that only a few novels provide." --Independent on Sunday
"At its core The Time Traveler's Wife is an old-fashioned love story.
It's a terrific book." --Observer (UK)
"Alarmingly close to perfection." --Scotland on Sunday
"A surprisingly poignant and completely absorbing read."
--Daily Mail (UK)
VINTAGE CANADA EDITION, 2004
Copyright (c) 2003 Audrey Niffenegger
First published by the United States by MacAdam/Cage Publishing
Published by arrangement with Harcourt, Inc.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Published in Canada by Vintage Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in hardcover in Canada by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, in 2003, and simultaneously in the United States of America by MacAdam/Cage, San Francisco.
Distributed by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Vintage Canada and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House of Canada Limited.
Publisher's Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
PERMISSIONS constitutes a continuation of the copyright page.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Niffenegger, Audrey
The time traveler's wife: a novel / by Audrey Niffenegger.
PS3564.I46T54 2004 813'.54 C2004-900811-0
Book design by Dorothy Carico Smith Printed and bound in the United States of America 30 32 34 36 37 35 33 31 29
PART I - THE MAN OUT OF TIME
A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
FIRST DATE, TWO
LESSONS IN SURVIVAL
AFTER THE END
CHRISTMAS EVE, ONE (ALWAYS CRASHING IN THE SAME CAR)
CHRISTMAS EVE, TWO
EAT OR BE EATEN
CHRISTMAS EVE, THREE
HOME IS ANYWHERE YOU HANG YOUR HEAD
BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY
GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME
PART II - A DROP OF BLOOD IN A BOWL OF MILK
LIBRARY SCIENCE FICTION
A VERY SMALL SHOE
NEW YEAR'S EVE, ONE
ALBA, AN INTRODUCTION
EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES
THE EPISODE OF THE MONROE STREET PARKING GARAGE
AN UNPLEASANT SCENE
THE EPISODE OF THE MONROE STREET PARKING GARAGE
WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND
HOURS, IF NOT DAYS
NEW YEAR'S EVE, TWO
PART III - A TREATISE ON LONGING
About the Author
Clock time is our bank manager, tax collector, police inspector;
this inner time is our wife.
--J. B. Priestley, Man and Time
LOVE AFTER LOVE
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
ELIZABETH HILLMAN TAMANDL
May 20, 1915--December 18, 1986
NORBERT CHARLES TAMANDL
February 11, 1915--May 23, 1957
CLARE: It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays.
I keep myself busy. Time goes faster that way.
I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I'm tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that's been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?
HENRY: How does it feel? How does it feel?
Sometimes it feels as though your attention has wandered
for just an instant. Then, with a start, you realize that the book you were holding, the red plaid cotton shirt with white buttons, the favorite black jeans and the maroon socks with an almost-hole in one heel, the living room, the about-to-whistle tea kettle in the kitchen: all of these have vanished. You are standing, naked as a jaybird, up to your ankles in ice water in a ditch along an unidentified rural route. You wait a minute to see if maybe you will just snap right back to your book, your apartment, et cetera. After about five minutes of swearing and shivering and hoping to hell you can just disappear, you start walking in any direction, which will eventually yield a farmhouse, where you have the option of stealing or explaining. Stealing will sometimes land you in jail, but explaining is more tedious and time-consuming and involves lying anyway, and also sometimes results in being hauled off to jail, so what the hell.
Sometimes you feel as though you have stood up too quickly even if you are lying in bed half asleep. You hear blood rushing in your head, feel vertiginous falling sensations. Your hands and feet are tingling and then they aren't there at all. You've mislocated yourself again. It only takes an instant, you have just enough time to try to hold on, to flail around (possibly damaging yourself or valuable possessions) and then you are skidding across the forest-green-carpeted hallway of a Motel 6 in Athens, Ohio, at 4:16 a.m., Monday, August 6, 1981, and you hit your head on someone's door, causing this person, a Ms. Tina Schulman from Philadelphia, to open this door and start screaming because there's a naked, carpet-burned man passed out at her feet. You wake up in the County Hospital concussed with a policeman sitting outside your door listening to the Phillies game on a crackly transistor radio. Mercifully, you lapse back into unconsciousness and wake up again hours later in your own bed with your wife leaning over you looking very worried.
Sometimes you feel euphoric. Everything is sublime and has an aura, and suddenly you are intensely nauseated and then you are gone. You are throwing up on some suburban geraniums, or your father's tennis shoes, or your very own bathroom floor three days ago, or a wooden sidewalk in Oak Park, Illinois, circa 1903, or a tennis court on a fine autumn day in the 1950s, or your own naked feet in a wide variety of times and places.
How does it feel?
It feels exactly like one of those dreams in which you suddenly realize that you have to take a test you haven't studied for and you aren't wearing any clothes. And you've left your wallet at home.
When I am out there, in time, I am inverted, changed into a desperate version of myself. I become a thief, a vagrant, an animal who runs and hides. I startle old women and amaze children. I am a trick, an illusion of the highest order, so incredible that I am actually true.
Is there a logic, a rule to all this coming and going, all this dislocation? Is there a way to stay put, to embrace the present with every cell? I don't know. There are clues; as with any disease there are patterns, possibilities. Exhaustion, loud noises, stress, standing up suddenly, flashing light--any of these can trigger an episode. But: I can be reading the Sunday Times, coffee in hand and Clare dozing beside me on our bed and suddenly I'm in 1976 watching my thirteen-year-old self mow my grandparents' lawn. Some of these episodes last only moments; it's like listening to a car radio that's having trouble holding on to a station. I find myself in crowds, audiences, mobs. Just as often I am alone, in a field, house, car, on a beach, in a grammar school in the middle of the night. I fear finding myself in a prison cell, an elevator full of people, the middle of a highway. I appear from nowhere, naked. How can I explain? I have never been able to carry anything with me. No clothes, no money, no ID. I spend most of my sojourns acquiring clothing and trying to hide. Fortunately I don't wear glasses.
It's ironic, really. All my pleasures are homey ones: armchair splendor, the sedate excitements of domesticity. All I ask for are humble delights. A mystery novel in bed, the smell of Clare's long red-gold hair damp from washing, a postcard from a friend on vacation, cream dispersing into coffee, the softness of the skin under Clare's breasts, the symmetry of grocery bags sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be unpacked. I love meandering through the stacks at the library after the patrons have gone home, lightly touching the spines of the books. These are the things that can pierce me with longing when I am displaced from them by Time's whim.
And Clare, always Clare. Clare in the morning, sleepy and crumple-faced. Clare with her arms plunging into the papermaking vat, pulling up the mold and shaking it so, and so, to meld the fibers. Clare reading, with her hair hanging over the back of the chair, massaging balm into her cracked red hands before bed. Clare's low voice is in my ear often.
I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow.
THE MAN OUT OF TIME
Oh not because happiness exists,
that too-hasty profit snatched from approaching loss.
But because truly being here is so much; because everything here apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.
...Ah, but what can we take along
into that other realm? Not the art of looking,
which is learned so slowly, and nothing that happened here. Nothing.
The sufferings, then. And, above all, the heaviness,
and the long experience of love,--just what is wholly
--from The Ninth Duino Elegy,
Rainer Maria Rilke,
translated by Stephen Mitchell
FIRST DATE, ONE
Saturday, October 26, 1991 (Henry is 28, Clare is 20)
CLARE: The library is cool and smells like carpet cleaner, although all I can see is marble. I sign the Visitors' Log: Clare Abshire, 11:15 10-26-91 Special Collections. I have never been in the Newberry Library before, and now that I've gotten past the dark, foreboding entrance I am excited. I have a sort of Christmas-morning sense of the library as a big box full of beautiful books. The elevator is dimly lit, almost silent. I stop on the third floor and fill out an application for a Reader's Card, then I go upstairs to Special Collections. My boot heels rap the wooden floor. The room is quiet and crowded, full of solid, heavy tables piled with books and surrounded by readers. Chicago autumn morning light shines through the tall windows. I approach the desk and collect a stack of call slips. I'm writing a paper for an art history class. My research topic is the Kelmscott Press Chaucer. I look up the book itself and fill out a call slip for it. But I also want to read about papermaking at Kelmscott. The catalog is confusing. I go back to the desk to ask for help. As I explain to the woman what I am trying to find, she glances over my shoulder at someone passing behind me. "Perhaps Mr. DeTamble can help you," she says. I turn, prepared to start explaining again, and find myself face to face with Henry.
I am speechless. Here is Henry, calm, clothed, younger than I have ever seen him. Henry is working at the Newberry Library, standing in front of me, in the present. Here and now. I am jubilant. Henry is looking at me patiently, uncertain but polite.
"Is there something I can help you with?" he asks.
"Henry!" I can barely refrain from throwing my arms around him. It is obvious that he has never seen me before in his life.
"Have we met? I'm sorry, I don't..." Henry is glancing around us, worrying that readers, co-workers are noticing us, searching his memory and realizing that some future self of his has met this radiantly happy girl standing in front of him. The last time I saw him he was sucking my toes in the Meadow.
I try to explain. "I'm Clare Abshire. I knew you when I was a little girl..." I'm at a loss because I am in love with a man who is standing before me with no memories of me at all. Everything is in the future for him. I want to laugh at the weirdness of the whole thing. I'm flooded with years of knowledge of Henry, while he's looking at me perplexed and fearful. Henry wearing my dad's old fishing trousers, patiently quizzing me on multiplication tables, French verbs, all the state capitals; Henry lau
ghing at some peculiar lunch my seven-year-old self has brought to the Meadow; Henry wearing a tuxedo, undoing the studs of his shirt with shaking hands on my eighteenth birthday. Here! Now! "Come and have coffee with me, or dinner or something..." Surely he has to say yes, this Henry who loves me in the past and the future must love me now in some bat-squeak echo of other time. To my immense relief he does say yes. We plan to meet tonight at a nearby Thai restaurant, all the while under the amazed gaze of the woman behind the desk, and I leave, forgetting about Kelmscott and Chaucer and floating down the marble stairs, through the lobby and out into the October Chicago sun, running across the park scattering small dogs and squirrels, whooping and rejoicing.
HENRY: It's a routine day in October, sunny and crisp. I'm at work in a small windowless humidity-controlled room on the fourth floor of the Newberry, cataloging a collection of marbled papers that has recently been donated, The papers are beautiful, but cataloging is dull, and I am feeling bored and sorry for myself. In fact, I am feeling old, in the way only a twenty-eight-year-old can after staying up half the night drinking overpriced vodka and trying, without success, to win himself back into the good graces of Ingrid Carmichel. We spent the entire evening fighting, and now I can't even remember what we were fighting about. My head is throbbing. I need coffee. Leaving the marbled papers in a state of controlled chaos, I walk through the office and past the page's desk in the Reading Room. I am halted by Isabelle's voice saying, "Perhaps Mr. DeTamble can help you," by which she means "Henry, you weasel, where are you slinking off to?" And this astoundingly beautiful amber-haired tall slim girl turns around and looks at me as though I am her personal Jesus. My stomach lurches. Obviously she knows me, and I don't know her. Lord only knows what I have said, done, or promised to this luminous creature, so I am forced to say in my best librarianese, "Is there something I can help you with?" The girl sort of breathes "Henry!" in this very evocative way that convinces me that at some point in time we have a really amazing thing together. This makes it worse that I don't know anything about her, not even her name. I say "Have we met?" and Isabelle gives me a look that says You asshole. But the girl says, "I'm Clare Abshire. I knew you when I was a little girl," and invites me out to dinner. I accept, stunned. She is glowing at me, although I am unshaven and hung over and just not at my best. We are going to meet for dinner this very evening, at the Beau Thai, and Clare, having secured me for later, wafts out of the Reading Room. As I stand in the elevator, dazed, I realize that a massive winning lottery ticket chunk of my future has somehow found me here in the present, and I start to laugh. I cross the lobby, and as I run down the stairs to the street I see Clare running across Washington Square, jumping and whooping, and I am near tears and I don't know why.