I never met my great-grandparents,

but I am told they were extraordinary.


I am slightly obsessed with the notion of visiting the 1800s to meet them. And yet I must, fist shaking in the air, face the fact that this will never happen, can never happen.  I blame Stephen Hawking.He says that if it were possible to go back and change the flow of events, the universe would cease to make sense.  Not that it does, to me, anyway. Or poor Ebenezer.

When I first read Charles Dickens’ famous tale, I didn’t think of it as a time travel story. Did you?

But these time-warpingly tales are.  

 Timeslips, as they say in the UK

Time and Again by Jack Finney

This novel puts a 20th-century man, Simon Morley, into 1882 New York City.  In Finney’s world, all you need to go back in time is the power of the mind. Just lock yourself in a period-perfect 1882 apartment, reading nothing but the news and books of the day, wearing the clothes, eating the food, and you’ll eventually open the door and find yourself in 1882.
'11/22/63' by Stephen King
11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King
A thirty five year old high-school teacher is leading an ordinary life when his friend Al, who runs the local diner, reveals that his storeroom is a portal to 1958 and sets Jake on a mission to prevent the JFK assassination. (Note: No monsters or killer clowns. Instead, think butterfly effect and Occam’s razor.)  I read it last year along with my book group, the large-print hardcover version, 1200 pages, 3.5 pounds. Phew. It’s a lot of novel. But it’s a copiously cool page-turner and I finished it in a few days. (Ivanhoe is a mere 400 pages and it took me months to read it, not counting time off for spring vacation and strep throat.) King’s book has dry wit and heart-wrenching emotion on both sides of the rabbit hole.  It’s got enough drama to make a grown man cry ~ if he were the crying type, unlike Jake Epping, the burnt-out English teacher who grapples with his new-found power and the destiny that comes along with it.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Windy City librarian Henry DeTamble suffers from a syndrome in which he’s whipsawed involuntarily back and forth through time (and space, too, within a blessedly limited radius). Henry can’t control where he will travel or how long he will stay in each time period, though it appears that his time traveling is sometimes brought on by stress. Now there’s a reason to relax if I’ve ever heard one. Niffenegger keeps it simple by establishing the rule that no matter how out-of-sequence Henry is forced to live his life, everything happens only once, no alterations or do-overs allowed.
If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock.
If you love baseball, a mystery and a love story, this one’s for you.
20th-century Sam Fowler ends up on the 1869 Cincinnati Red
Stockings and even becomes pals with Mark Twain.

Speaking of that Clemens guy…

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

Hank Morgan, a regular guy living in Hartford, Connecticut in the 19th century, gets hit on the head with a crowbar (by a man named Hercules, no less) and wakes up in Camelot. It’s a pretty hilarious look at medieval times.


Andrew Sean Greer has a thing about time.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells








I read Greer’s best-selling book, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, about a man aging backward. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a 10-year-old boy who seems to be a 60-year-old man (and who, half a century later, can pass for a 10-year-old boy), this fantasy with a twist is for you.

Now Greer is back with The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. I’m currently entranced with Greta who lives the same life in three different time periods, improvising her way through, dodging heartbreak and disappointment at every turn.

The book opens in 1985 with Greta in crisis ~ her long-term boyfriend, Nathan, has left, and her brother, Felix, has recently died of AIDS. Severely depressed, Greta undergoes an experimental psychiatric treatment that ~oh yes ~ transports her back and forth to the lives she might have lived in 1918 and 1941.

In each life, things are the same but different. And in every life, Greta searches for happiness.

There’s no complicated mechanics of time travel to follow or even understand. Greer just shows us how circumstances affect our choices and what we might do differently…. if we had other lives and alter egos. Curious about the magical what-if?  Read the first few chapters here. Because who knows when the impossible will happen to you.



So, you’ve read the post ~ and you’re thinking,

there’s no mention of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon,  

or The Time Machine By H.G. Wells,

or Finney’s sequel From Time to Time.  

Have you read any of these?  

What’s your favorite time-travel book?

Toni 7/28/13


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