BY KATHLEEN DACEY
[This is the final entry in our Deserted Isle Books series, in which our contributors discuss the one book they would choose if they were stranded alone on a deserted isle forever.]
I can’t honestly imagine being stranded on a beach. Woman verses the elements? Not this girl. I’ve never roughed it; I didn’t take Survival in high school and my Girl Scout troop vacationed on Cape Cod. All of my experience with camping has involved masses of friends. Running water. Coolers of beer. Bug spray. I’ve stayed up all night on the beach, but in the morning we drove to a diner for breakfast. Aside from Martha’s Vineyard I’ve never even been on an island.
Like Shannon on Lost, I have asthma and allergies. I burn easily and too much sun gives me migraines. I’m clumsy and would never be able to steady my stance long enough to catch a fish. I’ve never been able to shimmy up a tree so I’d have nowhere to hide from hungry animals. I’m not especially fast. I’d be easy prey—the carnivores would take me down the first night. Or I’d make it a week and be so beat up by the experience that I’d give in and float myself face-down out to sea.
I wouldn’t want my favorite book along for this miserable journey. And I don’t think I’ve read the “best” book out there. But I do have a story that soothes me, a style that comforts me, a buddy book.
The Time Traveler’s Wife. In my opinion, it’s a silly choice because I think the premise is ridiculous. I mean. Seriously? It’s a sci-fi romance. It’s also not very beautifully written and it’s not especially long or clever. But. It is the only book I packed when I drove cross-country to San Francisco. And it’s the only one I brought back with me to Boston. The rest of my books are piled neatly in water-proof Tupperware in my parent’s basement. (That’s a lie. I actually keep Wuthering Heights around too. When insomnia strikes, I read those first dim pages and fall right asleep.)
At its core The Time Traveler’s Wife is a lonely book. It would be the perfect companion—hopeful, but isolated—for myshort, wretched life on the island. It’s romantic, yes. Odds are defied, yes. There’s an overwhelming amount of love between the main characters, Henry and Clare. And yet, for the bulk of Time Traveler’s Wife the couple is stuck in solitude, eagerly awaiting their moments together. There is no happily ever after. The book weaves through the moments Henry and Clare spend together, but no matter when or where their lives intersect, they’re inevitably split apart again as Henry’s disease—Chrono-Displacement Order (CDP)—forces him to dissolve from present time into his past and his future. Their time together is linear, but it also criss-crosses as Henry slips back and forth through their lifetimes (he “visits” Clare throughout her childhood). Henry can’t help but desert Clare and, as a result, Clare spends her youth waiting for him to visit her and her adulthood waiting for him to return home.
It’s possible that reading about Henry and Clare would inspire me to last one more day. When Henry arrives in a new place in time he does so with no clothing, no money, and no food. He occasionally arrives in places that prevent him from accessing any of these basic needs (once he comes to in an elevator shaft). Yet, he perseveres. For love and because he’s (can you hear the Beyonce too?) a survivor. And Clare. She waits and waits and waits. Her entire life is composed of hoping and believing in a love that requires her to completely suspend her understanding of reality. She lives for her faith in Henry; even when she’s miserable and lonely she survives so she can be there when he returns.
So, Time Traveler’s Wife: at least I’d have one or two days on the beach with a very lovely, very inspiring story. And if I did miraculously survive for a few years? Well then. Blind, burnt, bruised, and starving, at least I’d be joined by the only book I ever seem to want to carry with me; the only book I can stand to read again and again.
Some friendly warnings:
*Many of my friends – even the ones who also like romantic, ethereal stories – didn’t like TTW. It’s not for everyone. The premise is about a man who uncontrollably moves through time. And it’s not funny! I get that.
*The movie was complete shit.
*And Audrey Niffenegger’s other novel Her Fearful Symmetry was okay, but not great. I gave it away at a book swap and no one even brought it home.