*The Time Traveler’s Wife SPOILERS ahead…
Henry DeTamble has been dead for a week now.
I guess he has technically been dead for years, in his fictitious world and considering that the book in which he dies was published several years ago. But I feel like he just died recently because he did, in a way, for me.
Where would you want to finish the novel you’re currently reading? That’s a question I’ve asked myself a few times (even here on the blog), and it’s one that I don’t think has a definitive answer. It totally depends on how attached you are to the book: if you haven’t really been enjoying it all that much, then finishing it on a crowded subway train probably isn’t going to make a difference to you; but, if it’s one of your favourite novels of all time and you’re extremely attached to the characters, you probably want a few more minutes of quiet, alone time with them before leaving their story behind.
So, where would you want to finish your FAVOURITE novel?
I had several chances to finish The Time Traveler’s Wife this third time reading it…but I rejected almost all of them and pushed the ending away as forcefully as I could until I absolutely couldn’t delay it any longer. The first chance I had to finish it, I was sitting in a café at my mom’s work, waiting for her to be done for the day so we could have dinner together. I had about 40 pages left of the novel and 2 hours of waiting for Maman, so I knew realistically I would be able to finish it no problem. But who wants to experience the death of one of their most adored literary characters of all time in a crowded, loud and boisterous café? NOT me, that’s for sure! So I read about 10 pages, realized that Henry’s death was imminent, and put the book back into my purse. I spent about an hour and a half staring at my phone instead.
The next day, I had no time to finish the novel because I was out from morning to night, at two different BBQs. This was a relief because I was so not willing to rush my last bit of time with Henry – I didn’t want to quickly devour the end of the book and then feel like I hadn’t given this man the proper respect he deserved. He is, after all, dearer to me than many of the people I know so he deserved a loving send off.
Finally, the day I had been dreading arrived…it was the absolute perfect day for reading in my house: my mom was the only one at home, doing various errands, and my father and brother were out for the evening. I wouldn’t have to hear the TV blaring in the background as I tried to focus on the words on the page, and my mom would be so distracted that she would only be able to come into my room and ask me questions a few hundred times, rather than a few thousand! (Haha, just kidding – love you Maman!) So, I shut my door, sat on my bed and opened the novel, preparing myself for what I already knew was coming but what I also still refused to accept.
Like Clare, at this point, after growing to love Henry so well and so fondly,
“I wanted someone to love who would stay: stay and be there, always”.
But, let’s face it, Henry has never been the type of man who could stay forever, and both Clare and I knew that. Unlike Clare, I was lucky enough (because of my past experiences with the novel) to know exactly how and when Henry would die…and that made me even more apprehensive. As I sat on my bed that evening, I genuinely felt nervous – my heart was actually racing, and before I could stop them, tears started streaming down my face. Every last thing Henry did and said was heartbreaking to me. I saw what a gentle, caring father and husband he was, and in the moments when he talked about wishing he could see Clare grow old and Alba live her life, I completely lost it! What was such a fine, beautiful and unique romance had so quickly turned to tragedy!
I let Henry DeTamble die…I was, of course, powerless to stop it. And I cried the whole time, just as if he were a real person. And I knew what Henry would say if he saw me in my room that night:
“I am helpless before her tears…”
I felt helpless too, just like Clare and Alba who were totally unable to stop the effects of time on their beloved Henry.
And, it’s taken me a long time, a few days to even think about starting another book. I honestly spent several mornings on the bus and several commutes home replaying scenes from The Time Traveler’s Wife. I wished the novel was longer. I wished it had a different ending. I wished that I could pretend that Clare and Henry and Alba lived on happily together for another 50 years.
People have said to me, on so many occasions, “It’s just a book. What are you so upset about? It’s not even real.” In response to that, I’ll say that, to me, the main purpose of books is to imitate real life, to recreate in a fictitious mold the emotions and human sentiments that exist in the world around us. And when an author does this correctly, when a novel is constructed in just the right way, as The Time Traveler’s Wife is, it can feel very real…and it can leave its remnants in the heart of a reader for a lifetime to come.
Farewell dear Henry,
Girl with a Green (and Heavy) Heart