The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547119793
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 11/22/2010
Pages: 560
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.90(d)
Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

AUDREY NIFFENEGGER is a professor in the M.F.A. program at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts.This is her first novel, which in hardcover was a selection of Today’s Book Club. She lives in Chicago.


Chicago, Illinois

Date of Birth:

June 13, 1963

Place of Birth:

South Haven, Michigan


B.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1985; M.F.A., Northwestern University, 1991

Read an Excerpt


Oh not because happiness exists,
that too-hasty profit snatched from approaching loss.
But because truly being here is so much; because everything here
apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way
keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.

...Ah, but what can we take along
into that other realm? Not the art of looking,
which is learned so slowly, and nothing that happened here. Nothing.
The sufferings, then. And, above all, the heaviness,
and the long experience of love,-just what is wholly

- from The Ninth Duino Elegy,
translated by STEPHEN MITCHELL


Saturday, October 26, 1991 (Henry is 28, Clare is 20)

CLARE: The library is cool and smells like carpet cleaner, although all I can see is marble. I sign the Visitors' Log: Clare Abshire, 11:15 10-26-91 Special Collections. I have never been in the Newberry Library before, and now that I've gotten past the dark, foreboding entrance I am excited. I have a sort of Christmas-morning sense of the library as a big box full of beautiful books. The elevator is dimly lit, almost silent. I stop on the third floor and fill out an application for a Reader's Card, then I go upstairs to Special Collections. My boot heels rap the wooden floor. The room is quiet and crowded, full of solid, heavy tables piled with books and surrounded by readers. Chicago autumn morning light shines through the tall windows. I approach the desk and collect a stack of call slips. I'm writing a paper for an art history class. My research topic is the Kelmscott Press Chaucer. I look up the book itself and fill out a call slip for it. But I also want to read about papermaking at Kelmscott. The catalog is confusing. I go back to the desk to ask for help. As I explain to the woman what I am trying to find, she glances over my shoulder at someone passing behind me. "Perhaps Mr. DeTamble can help you," she says. I turn, prepared to start explaining again, and find myself face to face with Henry.

I am speechless. Here is Henry, calm, clothed, younger than I have ever seen him. Henry is working at the Newberry Library, standing in front of me, in the present. Here and now. I am jubilant. Henry is looking at me patiently, uncertain but polite.

"Is there something I can help you with?" he asks.

"Henry!" I can barely refrain from throwing my arms around him. It is obvious that he has never seen me before in his life.

"Have we met? I'm sorry, I don't...." Henry is glancing around us, worrying that readers, co-workers are noticing us, searching his memory and realizing that some future self of his has met this radiantly happy girl standing in front of him. The last time I saw him he was sucking my toes in the Meadow.

I try to explain. "I'm Clare Abshire. I knew you when I was a little girl..." I'm at a loss because I am in love with a man who is standing before me with no memories of me at all. Everything is in the future for him. I want to laugh at the weirdness of the whole thing. I'm flooded with years of knowledge of Henry, while he's looking at me perplexed and fearful. Henry wearing my dad's old fishing trousers, patiently quizzing me on multiplication tables, French verbs, all the state capitals; Henry laughing at some peculiar lunch my seven-year-old self has brought to the Meadow; Henry wearing a tuxedo, undoing the studs of his shirt with shaking hands on my eighteenth birthday. Here! Now! "Come and have coffee with me, or dinner or something...." Surely he has to say yes, this Henry who loves me in the past and the future must love me now in some bat-squeak echo of other time. To my immense relief he does say yes. We plan to meet tonight at a nearby Thai restaurant, all the while under the amazed gaze of the woman behind the desk, and I leave, forgetting about Kelmscott and Chaucer and floating down the marble stairs, through the lobby and out into the October Chicago sun, running across the park scattering small dogs and squirrels, whooping and rejoicing.

HENRY: It's a routine day in October, sunny and crisp. I'm at work in a small windowless humidity-controlled room on the fourth floor of the Newberry, cataloging a collection of marbled papers that has recently been donated. The papers are beautiful, but cataloging is dull, and I am feeling bored and sorry for myself. In fact, I am feeling old, in the way only a twenty-eight-year-old can after staying up half the night drinking overpriced vodka and trying, without success, to win himself back into the good graces of Ingrid Carmichel. We spent the entire evening fighting, and now I can't even remember what we were fighting about. My head is throbbing. I need coffee. Leaving the marbled papers in a state of controlled chaos, I walk through the office and past the page's desk in the Reading Room. I am halted by Isabelle's voice saying, "Perhaps Mr. DeTamble can help you," by which she means "Henry, you weasel, where are you slinking off to?" And this astoundingly beautiful amber-haired tall slim girl turns around and looks at me as though I am her personal Jesus. My stomach lurches. Obviously she knows me, and I don't know her. Lord only knows what I have said, done, or promised to this luminous creature, so I am forced to say in my best librarianese, "Is there something I can help you with?" The girl sort of breathes "Henry!" in this very evocative way that convinces me that at some point in time we have a really amazing thing together. This makes it worse that I don't know anything about her, not even her name. I say "Have we met?" and Isabelle gives me a look that says You asshole. But the girl says, "I'm Clare Abshire. I knew you when I was a little girl," and invites me out to dinner. I accept, stunned. She is glowing at me, although I am unshaven and hung over and just not at my best. We are going to meet for dinner this very evening, at the Beau Thai, and Clare, having secured me for later, wafts out of the Reading Room. As I stand in the elevator, dazed, I realize that a massive winning lottery ticket chunk of my future has somehow found me here in the present, and I start to laugh. I cross the lobby, and as I run down the stairs to the street I see Clare running across Washington Square, jumping and whooping, and I am near tears and I don't know why.

Later that evening:

HENRY: At 6:00 p.m. I race home from work and attempt to make myself attractive. Home these days is a tiny but insanely expensive studio apartment on North Dearborn; I am constantly banging parts of myself on inconvenient walls, countertops and furniture. Step One: unlock seventeen locks on apartment door, fling myself into the living room-which-is-also-my-bedroom and begin stripping off clothing. Step Two: shower and shave. Step Three: stare hopelessly into the depths of my closet, gradually becoming aware that nothing is exactly clean. I discover one white shirt still in its dry cleaning bag. I decide to wear the black suit, wing tips, and pale blue tie. Step Four: don all of this and realize I look like an FBI agent. Step Five: look around and realize that the apartment is a mess. I resolve to avoid bringing Clare to my apartment tonight even if such a thing is possible. Step Six: look in full-length bathroom mirror and behold angular, wild-eyed 6' 1" ten-year-old Egon Schiele look-alike in clean shirt and funeral director suit. I wonder what sorts of outfits this woman has seen me wearing, since I am obviously not arriving from my future into her past wearing clothes of my own. She said she was a little girl? A plethora of unanswerables runs through my head. I stop and breathe for a minute. Okay. I grab my wallet and my keys, and away I go: lock the thirty-seven locks, descend in the cranky little elevator, buy roses for Clare in the shop in the lobby, walk two blocks to the restaurant in record time but still five minutes late. Clare is already seated in a booth and she looks relieved when she sees me. She waves at me like she's in a parade.

"Hello," I say. Clare is wearing a wine-colored velvet dress and pearls. She looks like a Botticelli by way of John Graham: huge gray eyes, long nose, tiny delicate mouth like a geisha. She has long red hair that covers her shoulders and falls to the middle of her back. Clare is so pale she looks like a waxwork in the candlelight. I thrust the roses at her. "For you."

"Thank you," says Clare, absurdly pleased. She looks at me and realizes that I am confused by her response. "You've never given me flowers before."

I slide into the booth opposite her. I'm fascinated. This woman knows me; this isn't some passing acquaintance of my future hegiras. The waitress appears and hands us menus.

"Tell me," I demand.


"Everything. I mean, do you understand why I don't know you? I'm terribly sorry about that-"

"Oh, no, you shouldn't be. I mean, I know...why that is." Clare lowers her voice. "It's because for you none of it has happened yet, but for me, well, I've known you for a long time."

Copyright © 2003 by Audrey Niffenegger

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

What People are Saying About This

Scott Turow

I read every page with eagerness.

Reading Group Guide

New York Times Bestseller

Today Show Book Club Selection

Audrey Niffenegger's innovative debut, The Time Traveler's Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's marriage and their passionate love for each other, as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals -- steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.|

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.


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.

Customer Reviews

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The Time Traveler's Wife 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2074 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Time Traveler's Wife is a heart-wrenching account of a time traveler named Henry, who spontaneously "travels." He cannot control when the time travel happens and it leads to a very unpredictable life. Henry meets Clare and thus begins a love story of two people who can never be completely together.
The Time Traveler's Wife will stay with you well after you've read the ending. I read the ending over and over again wanting to relive the last moment these two lovers were together. Melancholy follows the two lovers and propels you to keep reading. There is deep symolism in the novel, though the circumstances around the two main characters is outlandish, the feelings behind it are real. How can you truly be 100% with someone who can never be there for you? It's a question a lot of relationships face and Niffenegger answers it beautifully.
The movie is coming out this November and is starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. I hope that the movie lives up to the book, though it will be hard. Interesting read, I recommend it with 5 stars.
1DANA3 More than 1 year ago
A lot to try to keep straight, but well thought out, amazing and entertaining story. This is original, unforgettable, complex, touching, thought-provoking and just plain AMAZING! The love and loss, until later, I will always love you theme carries through the time traveling storyline beautifully and satisfyingly. What a puzzle to try to keep straight in your head! Great insight and perserverence! Fantastic, to say the least, and unconventional, for sure, but truly one to keep you turning the pages!Well worth the read! Some others I LOVED below...
timetraveler-1692- More than 1 year ago
Magical and tragic. Painful and frustrating. You have to really open yourself up to fiction to really enjoy the whole concept of a character who has a genetic disorder that allows time travel. There were a few times that I felt the plot was dragged out too far, yet there are characters that could have been given more depth (Kimmie, the marriage of Gomez and Charisse). Overall, I really enjoyed this story, however, it left me feeling bereft with sadness and frustration. We learned the fate of Henry, I don't understand why the author could not leave us with what happened to Clare. We know she lived at least until the age of 82, but what happened inbetween? Did she remarry? Did the several pairs of golashes allude to grandchildren, a husband??? What happened to Gomez and Charisse (Charisse feared that Gomez would leave her for Clare when Henry was gone)? Did Clare live the rest of her life in the present like Henry asked her to? After investing so much time into this book, the ending was unfair to the reader. Good writing, new concept and idea as far as time travel goes.
KyKy More than 1 year ago
this is undoubtably the best book i have ever read. the only thing i didnt like was the reoccurring use of a few derogatory sexual words, but even that couldnt change my view of this story. it was exciting, moving, romantic and heartbreaking. i will never forget The Time Traveler's Wife.
sydewinder More than 1 year ago
I found this book discarded on a subway; because I had over an hour until my stop, and because I needed something to distract me from the homeless man who was shouting expletives at me from across the aisle, I flipped open the cover. 3 days later (yes, I had gotten off the train) I finished. I consider myself a tough critic most of the time. But this book was amazing. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, I loved the ending. It was real, messy, and brilliant! None of this cookie cutter stuff you read where you expect every plot twist, and where everything works out wonderfully in the end for everyone. No, this is some good storytelling! I would never have bought this book, not in a million years. But I want to thank the person who left it on the subway. I'm going to start doing that with the books I really like. Clearly the book isn't for everyone. It has swearing, sex, and violence, and aside from the latter, I am usually very critical of books with these inclusions. But for this book, the swearing the sex and most certainly the violence, was all necessary. Read it if you want, or don't. But when you finish it, leave it on the train or bus or ferry or airplane. Guys like me need to read stuff like this and we won't unless we stumble upon it when we are seeking distraction from the mentally ill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Time Traveler's Wife is a riveting tale of Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. At a young age Henry learns he has the ability to time travel, but unfortunately he has no control over when he travels. Jumping through time, Henry often visits the past, where he meets his future wife Clare. When they eventually meet in the present, things become a bit tricky for the two of them as Clare is almost always waiting for Henry's return. Clare spends most of her childhood waiting on Henry. Henry and Clare find that there are only a few people in their life that they can trust with Henry's secret. This traditional love story with some unusual twists did not leave me disappointed. I grew to love the characters and was greedily waiting for the next action to take place. I really liked Clare's point of view. Her point of view provided useful insight into Henry's world as well as their own life together.I also loved her character, and how she was so faithful and trusting of Henry, when she had to keep waiting for him. Something unique to this book that really grabbed my attention were the settings. The two main settings, the meadow and the city, represented the two different moods in this book. To me the meadow represented the happy times and the city represented the rougher times in Henry and Clare's life. Although I did not especially like the science in this book, it did add more depth and mystery to the plot. It was also thought provoking, thinking there was a gene that could make one time travel.The ending to this book is also really ironic and I wish that it did not end the way it did. The style in which this book is written is kind of confusing at times, but after reading through the whole book, it makes sense, because it all comes together at the end. Overall I enjoyed this book. While it is not outstanding, in my opinion, it had a steady pace and great plot as well as characters. The Time Traveler's Wife is worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely confusing during the first 30 pages or so and I did have to reread wondering of I was getting it right but after a while you start to catch on to the writing technique. It is a love story that is demented but you do start to believe in the characters and understand their thoughts. The last quarter of the book I found it very hard to put the book down and knew that it was not going to be a happy ending. The author tried to make it a happy ending but it wasn't a good enough happy ending. I am sure the movie is going to romanticize the book way more than it is and if the ending is the same, I don't want to see it. Just too sad for me.
songofthestars91 More than 1 year ago
This masterpiece of a novel is broken into many pieces and brilliantly woven together by Niffenegger, who must have the mind of a poetic genius. The Time Traveler's Wife is like nothing I've ever read before, and I enjoyed every page of the truly original story about love and fate. The main characters, Henry and Clare, both have distinct voices that somehow blend together perfectly to create a tale of passion and heartbreak between two soul mates that are destined from the very beginning. However, the more sexual parts of the book were a little too graphic for my taste, and the erratic timeline would get somewhat confusing at times. But despite those small complaints, I thought that Niffenegger's first novel was absolutely riveting.
JuliaNY More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read (and I have been an avid reader for over 40 years.) Even though I had to adjust to the idea of non-linear time, I was hooked on the characters and the story from page one. It is a beautiful, touching, original, fantastic love story and more. The book's use of fluid time lets you view the characters in a very novel and personal way. I will never forget this book.
Ophelia81 More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and I tend to get lost in books. With that said I have been looking for a good book to read for awhile and I finally found it. This is a must read for every woman I know. This is a true love story that exists over time and conquers all barriers. Niffenegger's writing pulls the reader into the story and allows them to feel the characters angst throughout the book, by writing from Claire and Henry's point of view. It is a quick read, maybe because I could not put it down. When I finished this book I could not stop telling everyone, even strangers, how much I loved it. Its a must read and a great gift for the avid reader in your life.
LaconicJennie More than 1 year ago
I first had seen the movie and i instantly had fallen in love with it. so i decided to get the book and although there was a couple of differences from the book to the movie i think that book version is still better than the movie. the book it is compelling it like i would put the book down only to drawned back to the book to read it. i was up till 5 in the morning reading the book. it is fantastic. i would not recommend it for people under 15 as it has some sexual content but it is humorous and just a roller coaster ride. unlike Nicholas Sparks who writes with his heart on his sleeve and heart in his throat Ms. Niffenegger writes with a slight detachment. Nicholas Sparks sort of makes you love the characters while Audrey Niffenegger writes with this indifference but soon enough you'll find yourself head first into a sob session for the characters in her book. it is a must read.
kangamaam More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story. It has the best qualities of science fiction but with a a much higher quality of story-telling than I usually find in that genre. I found myself really caring about the characters. I can't wait to read her next book.
avidreader255 More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time putting this book down. It was recommended to me by a friend and I have recommended it to everyone. The plot was different and the characters were well developed. You fell in love with the two main characters and couldn't wait to see what happened. You had to keep track of the dates, otherwise it could get a little confusing. Everyone I know that read this book, loved it. It's not your typical love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw the commercial for the movie and was enticed. I always like to read the book first, though, so I recently got it, and as soon as I started reading it, I couldn't put it down! At times the time traveling makes it a little confusing, but everything else about the book is amazing. It is romantic, touching, and interesting; it truly is unlike any other book that I have read. I would recommend this to anyone - it's the perfect book to read if you're going to have a long period of down time because you won't want to stop reading.
mindflavor More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel so much I cried. The characters are absolutely engaging and the complex plot well executed. I don't think the movie did it justice at all and have recommended it to several friends already. Fans of Romantic Science Fiction will be well pleased with The Time Traveler's Wife!
tiffany_cullen More than 1 year ago
I consider this one of the best novels I have ever read. It is one of the "must reads" of my life. Niffenegger's style is genuine, full of comical moments as well as breaking points. The lives of Clare and Henry are intertwined beautifully, and many couples will be able to relate to them even though they are wonderful works of fiction. I reccomend this novel to anyone who enjoys escaping into a realm unlike their own.
TheLight More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and read about a book a week, but this book was finished in days! The plot of this exquisite novel was seamless and its characters were made tangible by the author. I've recommended this book to many friends and everyone has the same reaction: It is an unbelievably captivating, intense, and emotionally charged novel and possibly the most creative love story ever written.
BettyFernau More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best novels I have had read. It drew me in, and held me captive until the very last page. I felt emotionally connected to the characters, and sobbed as if my own heart were breaking in two. I will recommend this book to everyone I know. I only hope the movie does it justice!
Malzy More than 1 year ago
This book sucks you in from the first pages. It takes you to a place where only Henry and Clare exist. I found myself addicted and unable to put this book down. The author makes sure to make every page of the book a new adventure for Clare and Henry. The relationship between Henry and Clare is magical and extremely romantic. I recommend this book to everyone.
all55husbands More than 1 year ago
The whole time i was reading the book it consumed my thoughts the entire time,I mean I thought of literally nothing else, I even found myself dreaming about it. While it was a little confusing everything eventually comes full circle and by the end it all made sense. This book is definitely one of my favorites.
cassie58522 More than 1 year ago
I'm always drawn to stories about time travel or 'if only I could have made a different choice.' In this story one of the characters moves back and forth in time, never knowing where or when he will arrive, but he is drawn like a magnetic to one woman. She has a deep and enduring love that gives her the strength to cope with his long absences and the fear of never knowing where he is, what he must be doing to survive, and if he is safe. I will look for other books by this author.
drakelady More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book about four or five years ago just browsing through the Noteworthy Fiction table at BN. I was just looking for something to hold my attention, but what this book gave me was sooo much more. This is a harrowing tale of how love can conquer all, even time itself. This book is not for everyone; it is mostly for those readers who love to lose themselves in a fantastical romance that still feels grounded in reality. The problems Henry and Clare face are real: loneliness, sense of abandonment, infertility; they just happen to be caused by time travel. For those looking for a dashing white knight of a romantic hero, take a second to reevaluate your expectations. Henry is not an innocent. When faced with real survival issues, he will do what is necessary to live: steal, assault (usually in self defense), and lie, alot. But his love for Clare is true, trust in that. Audrey Niffeneggar's inventive narrative is refreshing if somewhat confusing, just take the time to note how old each character is, what year it is, both of which is denoted at the beginning of each section. Give this book a chance, I promise you won't forget it.
April_Rain More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books I've picked up and put down several times. I finally decided to read it after I saw the movie preview and am now sorry I didn't read it sooner. Yes, it was kind of hard to follow at first (the date/times) but once you get into it you figure it out. The writing itself isn't too terribly descriptive or engaging, but I still had a hard time putting it down until I was finished. It's simply a sweet, amazing love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Book is amazing. It's one of those slow moving romance novels that aren't exactly a "romance novel". It has a lot of passion and you get absorbed into the characters. The writing style and concept of the whole book is unbelievable. I can't wait for the movie (although the trailer looks a little iffy). You'll laugh, you'll cry, please read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely one of my top ten favorites. I was hooked from the first page, and is a book that will stay with me for awhile yet. Though Henry has a most unfortunate condition, he still manages to find the love of his life. Their relationship is by no means conventional, and while the constant time traveling is a problem, Clare and Henry's love survives. Though perhaps some of the language used in the book is a bit disturbing, i still enjoyed this book. I guess its so enjoyable because it lets your imagination run away and wonder what if that could really happen? It'd be quite interesting to meet your future husband on numerous occasions during your childhood and then find him in real time....Its everything a book should be;an escape.