I picked up "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger on a whim, having read the book jacket a few weeks earlier. The description sounded vaguely interesting at the time, and the author's last name was very memorable. Now that may be nice and all, but why did I decide to do a review of it on my disability orientated blog?
It is a moving and thought provoking piece of disability literature. I would recommend this book as a good read.
The protagonist, Henry, has great difficulty remaining in his current place and time, especially under stress. Worse yet, although he can and does go backwards in time, he cannot change the timeline. The novel tells the story of Henry's life with this disability and the life of his wife and caregiver, Clare.
Henry is everything I could ask for in a disabled protagonist. He is depicted as a real person, not an angelic figure, not as a villainous one. He is a man who does his best to get by in a world that isn't fit to him, doing whatever is required to survive. His personality, habits, and outlook are logical and well integrated with his life experience. Similarly, Clare is not a caricature or embodied stereotype.
Niffenegger does not shy away from the painful parts of their life together. She portrays the frustrations, the obstacles, the loneliness, the little victories, and the magical moments each in their time. I was particularly impressed by both her treatment of their consideration of and attempts at having a child, and her look into how disability can so easily drive someone into overuse of drugs and embrace experimental treatments.
Now, having put that out there, I will make my confession. There is a section in the back of the book that I am still unsure of how I feel about. It deals with the acquiring of a second disability and the interaction between the two. The deep understanding of life with a disability the author shows in the first eighty percent of the book seems to vanish, and suddenly a much more negative and stereotypical view of disability is revealed. It makes sense in context, but it did diminish my enjoyment of the book. I would like to expound on this part, but do not want to spoil the surprises for anyone.
With that said, my assessment is that this book rates a 7.5/10