The Time Traveler’s Wife starts like a cliché romance: a chance encounter in a Chicago library sees the two central characters introduced. Librarian Henry is twenty-eight years old and Clare, an art student, is twenty. The two are drawn to each other. Clare reveals that she has met Henry before –in fact, she claims she has known him since she was six years old, a fact that Henry has a hard time placing as –to him this is their first encounter. Drawn to her beauty, Henry accepts the invitation to dinner proposed by Clare. It is here that the novel shifts. Clare surprises Henry further when she divulges her knowledge of Henry’s secret. He suffers from a time travel disorder, Chrono-impairment, which sees him unwillingly flung into different time points. Clare recalls her first meeting with Henry, when she was six and he forty-three, meeting in her parent’s garden.
Hoping to prove her bond with him, Clare presents Henry with a diary, a diary which chronicles his visits to Clare. The two begin a romantic relationship, but the strain of not knowing when Henry will vanish and when he will appear starts to take its toll. Can two people really spend their lives together if they live on different time lines?
A huge bestselling title, it is clear from the initial concept that it is an intriguing read and likely to attract a lot of readers. The plot is unique and clever, entangling a normal romance with elements of science fiction propels the novel into a realm of its own, setting it apart from any of the stereotypical romances lining the bookshelves. The genius in Niffeneggar’s idea is the constraints it places on the relationship between Henry and Clare, seeing them overcome challenges that are out of their control, making for a relationship that is compelling.
Why do you think Henry jumps to times that are significant in his life?
The novel doesn’t explain whether the disorder is unique to Henry and Alba, do you think Niffeneggar wrote them as an unusual case or do you think that it is just a common possibility in the world she created?
Do you think that the novel has undertones that may not be considered politically correct? For example the relationship between Henry in his forties and Claire when she was a child?
Do you think Clare really understands that Henry had no control or do you think that she blames him for his time-hopping?
How do the challenges that Henry and Clare face in their relationship compare to those of a real one?
What was your reaction to the ending of the novel? In what way does Niffeneggar keep Henry’s story going? The-Time-Travelers-Wife-Discussion-Questions.pdf
Dr Kendrick regretfully informs Henry that it unlikely that he will be able to be cured. The disorder has progressed too far for Kendrick’s knowledge to be of use, but he may be able to help Alba.
Henry begins to sense that his death is coming. Now forty-three, it is at New Year when Henry gets transported to the time when he is fatally wounded. It is a time in Clare’s past, a time when Clare’s brother mistakenly shoots Henry while hunting.
The novel ends after Henry’s death. Clare discovers a letter from Henry telling her to live her life without him and hinting that although he cannot make any more visits, he does remember a time when he visited an elderly Clare so they may have one final meeting. In the years that follow, Henry travels back to have several encounters with Alba, though never visiting Clare.
Clare, now at the age of eighty-two, receives her final visit from Henry.
The Time Traveler’s Wife was Niffeneggar’s debut novel.