When artist Claire Abshire first meets librarian Henry DeTamble, she is a 6 year old girl, and he is a 36 year old man. When Henry DeTamble first meets Claire Abshire, he is a 28 year old man, and she is a 20 year old woman. Confused? As the name of the book suggests, Henry has a virtually unheard of genetic disorder that allows him to travel through time. He has no control over his ventures, though he is drawn to Claire in many of his time jumps, for an inexplicable reason. Therefore, Claire progresses through adolescence with periodic visits from a middle-aged man who randomly appears in her backyard.
Here is where it gets a bit confusing. Claire grows up knowing Henry, and the Henry that she knows comes from the future when he is married to her. He lives with her older self, so that self is able to remember the dates of all of his visits that happened when she was young. The older Claire tells her Henry about his visits, so he in turn tells the younger Claire the dates on which he will come so that she can be there with him. The only thing is that this happens when Henry is older. When the two finally meet in real life (when Henry is not time traveling), Henry does not know her at all. Claire has gotten to know and ultimately fall in love with Henry through his travels, but he has not met her yet. Cue the headache.
As the book unfolds, so does the lifelong journey of Henry and Claire. Each chapter is wildly different from the next, shifting perspectives and skipping from scenes of the couple in the present day to moments including Claire as a young girl who is just getting to know Henry. Love blossoms between the two as they age and face all of the trials and tribulations of life. However, Henry’s condition causes problems that regular couples would not dream of.
Sometimes Henry disappears for hours or days, whisked away to another time. Neither he nor Claire knows when he will be back, and she is left waiting at home for him, hoping that he is safe. As the two desperately try to find a cure for Henry’s disorder, they attempt to live out each day as normally as possible as a married couple deeply in love.
The sophisticated language and themes make it easy to become engaged in the intertwined stories of Henry and Claire. Their obstacles are so personal and yet so outrageous, it becomes possible to empathize what it is like to be a both a time traveler and his wife.
Due to mature themes and language, this book is most suitable for mature readers.
Review by Emma M., teen blogger