Saturday, January 25, 2020

Time After Time

Title:  Time After Time
Author:  Lisa Grunwald
Publication Information:  Random House. 2019. 416 pages.
ISBN:  0812993438 / 978-0812993431
Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "She wasn't carrying a suitcase, and she wasn't wearing a coat."

Favorite Quote:  "But patience, real patience, meant more than simply waiting. Patience meant you had to honor the moments before things happened the same way you honored the moments when they did."

The time is the 1930s. The place is the magical city of New York. The setting is Grand Central Terminal. The plot is pure fantasy. Joe Reynolds is a railroad man, a lever man at the station. He meets a girl, but Nora Lansing is not just another girl. Joe keeps meeting her, and she keeps disappearing.

At the beginning, Nora's appearances seem random. Then, a pattern emerges. A pattern beyond belief and yet real all the same. Is Joe and Nora's relationship real? Will it survive?

In the background is the time and place. Joe is surrounded by a loving family, in particular his brother and his brother's wife and children. Theirs is a close relationship. Alas, looming is the war. At the beginning, it is a war in Europe. Then, it comes shockingly to the United Sates. The backdrop is the beauty and grandeur of Grand Central Terminal and Manhattanhenge. Interestingly, The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is set at the Grand Central Terminal in the 1920s. It is fascinating to get these two glimpses into the same place for Nora visits the art school location of Fiona Davis's book years after it has been deserted. I love when books connect like that!

According to the author, this book started with research for another book on what it was like to arrive in New York by train in the 1950s. This led to a book about the station. That book in turn led to a story about a girl who appeared once a year at the terminal and then disappeared. So, the story, however far-fetched, has a basis in historical documentation. Real or not, the background makes it more intriguing.

Please note that there are liberties taken with the historical timeline to make this story work. For example, Manhattanhenge was coined by Neil deGrasse Tyson in the 2000s; it did not exist in the time period of this book. Regardless, this is fiction, and the story works.

This book covers a lot of time all within the space of Grand Central Terminal. On the face of it, this book is a slow paced love story. It is a story that calls for the suspension of disbelief but raises very real life questions. What would you do for love? What would you do for those you love? What sacrifices would you be willing to make?

The author's note introduces entirely an entire other interpretation of this love story. The personal information shared in the author's note is completely real and grounded in issues we may all face. The author lives with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and with other illnesses. Her health places limitations on her life and her ability to do many things. Her husband Stephen faces no such physical limitations. These facts "helped me find the emotional center of this novel. Like Stephen, Joe is steadfast. Like me, Nora learns to live in a circumscribed world. Joe helps Nora accept her limitations. Nora helps Joe pursue his freedoms."

Reading the author's note first definitely impacts my reaction to the book. This interpretation grounds the book and makes Joe and Nora's challenges relatable and turn the book a sweet fantasy into a surprisingly real love story.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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