My recent reads both involve time travel without any actual time travel — How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain. My Dream of You is a more straight forward story within a story type of time travel — the main character is considering writing a book about a love story which occurred in Ireland during the famine so the book takes place both in the early 2000’s and we get excerpts of her book set in the 1860’s.  How to Stop Time involves traveling through time by just continuing to be alive — the main character is over 400 years old.

I didn’t love My Dream of You.  I did grow attached to the main character, but the story itself is sort meandering as she deals with the death of a dear friend and the more remote deaths of her parents by like, being in Ireland, researching her story, and thinking back on her life. I did identify with her constant thoughts about what to make of the rest of her life, but there’s no real answer to that. The book ended suddenly to me, I was invested in her getting somewhere, but the book ends just with her leaving Ireland and deciding she isn’t going to finish her book. I wanted more of a resolution of her relationships with her friends and family outside of Ireland, and heck, even her relatives in Ireland it was like….so it just ends like this??

I really liked How to Stop Time — it was fun, and it gave me most of the resolution I was looking for.  The story is all about Tom Hazard who is born in 1581 and stops aging normally in his early teens.  We are told early on that unlike us regular humans (mayflies), he is an “alba” short for albatross and ages at about 1/15th the rate of the rest of us.  Although Tom doesn’t travel in time and has lived his life linearly, the reader jumps back and forth from Tom’s past to the present in London (which appears to be set around the actual present). There’s a bit of gimmicky-ness — he works for Shakespeare, sails with Cook, dines in the same place as Charlie Chaplin, has a conversation with Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but that didn’t really bother me.  Essentially we learn that Tom’s early life was difficult (they killed witches in 1581, guys who don’t age = witches, sons of witches, demon, Satan, etc.), and that he had a daughter who, like him, stopped aging normally, so the story arc is learning more about his past and who he is, while in the present he’s still trying to deal with who he is while also hoping the find his daughter.

I thought some of what the book said about love was a bit simplistic, but what it said about time, I found quite beautiful although I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of it — Tom who has so much time, still feels trapped by it. There’s kind of a random passage that I think captures a lot of the spirit of the book:

And, just as it only takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. You just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself: who am I? If I could live without doubt what would I do? If I could be kind without fear of being fucked over? If I could love without fear of being hurt? If I could taste the sweetness of today without thinking of how I will miss that taste tomorrow? If I could not fear the passing of time and the people it will steal? Yes. What would I do? Who would I care for? What battle would I fight? Which paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself? What internal mysteries would I solve? How, in short, would I live?

I definitely recommend How to Stop Time.  Unlike most books, which I get out the library, I actually bought this one, and while it is not one of the rare books I will immediately be reading again (looking at you Station Eleven), I will definitely be forcing my copy upon people telling them they must read it.

Currently reading: Sing Unburied Sing and I’m going to give Fever Dreams a shot although the reviews make me think that it’s an amazing book that I’m not going to like.. If you love books and you’re not following The Morning News Tournament of Books (The Rooster) you MUST. Much thanks to my friend Jaclyn for turning me on to it, and I knew I would love it because THEIR 2015 WINNER WAS STATION ELEVEN. Have I mentioned that you should read Station Eleven? Although I will say the tournament this year has been crazy! Manhattan Beach and Lincoln in the Bardo were knocked out!