The Time Traveler's Wife

Paperback | June 15, 2004

byAudrey Niffenegger

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This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

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From the Publisher

This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or futu...

AUDREY NIFFENEGGER is a visual artist and a guide at Highgate Cemetery. In addition to the bestselling novels The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, she is the author of three illustrated novels, The Three Incestuous Sisters, The Adventuress, and The Night Bookmobile, and the editor of Ghostly. She lives in Chicago and Lond...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:560 pages, 8 × 5.17 × 1.26 inPublished:June 15, 2004Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676976336

ISBN - 13:9780676976335

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

PROLOGUEClare: 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?Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?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 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. Fortunately I don’t wear glasses. I spend most of my sojourns acquiring clothing and trying to hide.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.From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. In The Time Traveler’s Wife, the characters meet each other at various times during their lifetime. How does the author keep all the timelines in order and “on time”?2. Although Henry does the time traveling, Clare is equally impacted. How does she cope with his journeys and does she ultimately accept them?3. How does the writer introduce the reader to the concept of time travel as a realistic occurrence? Does she succeed?4. Henry’s life is disrupted on multiple levels by spontaneous time travel. How does his career as a librarian offset his tumultuous disappearances? Why does that job appeal to Henry?5. Henry and Clare know each other for years before they fall in love as adults. How does Clare cope with the knowledge that at a young age she knows that Henry is the man she will eventually marry?6. The Time Traveler’s Wife is ultimately an enduring love story. What trials and tribulations do Henry and Clare face that are the same as or different from other “normal” relationships?7. How does their desire for a child affect their relationship?8. The book is told from both Henry and Clare’s perspectives. What does this add to the story?9. Do you think the ending of the novel is satisfactory?10. Though history there have been dozens of mediums used for time travel in literature. Please site examples and compare The Time Traveler’s Wife to the ones with which you are familiar.From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLERINTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER “Thought-provoking and very moving. Plus there are several mentions of punk-rock bands such as the late, great Clash!” Huffington Post Books   “One doesn’t normally associate science fiction with true love, but my favourite romance is Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.... Heartbreaking.... It’s an introspective and deeply moving tale of sacrifice--and, incidentally, a stunning example of the book being far better than the movie.” The Globe and Mail   “Ms. Niffenegger not only conjured two memorable characters, but also created an affecting story about the magical ability of love to transcend time.” The New York Times “Highly original novel.... The Time Traveler’s Wife has it all: an innovative plot, intriguing characters and compelling writing.” Chatelaine “Niffenegger’s storytelling is bold 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 Times-Colonist "The Time Traveler's Wife is a very old love story: wonky, sexy, incredible...but charmingly, inventively retold." The Times