A Follow Up on the Time Traveler’s Wife (and a Book Suggestion for Those More Emotionally Mature Than Me… Which Is, Like, All Y’all)

OK. We’ve made an important decision about The Time Traveler’s Wife which is that I am not emotionally mature enough to read it. It’s like spending days and days in art museums or limiting screen time for my children; I wish I was that kind of person, but I’m not.

I probably should have also told you that I have a Long History with tragic, triumphant stories, and it’s not pretty. I read The Chamber by John Grisham, for example, in 1995 a few months after Greg and I got married. Sitting with me on our horribly uncomfortable but very practical and strangely durable navy couch the day I finished, Greg learned the hard truth that his new wife hurls tragic books across the room and into the fireplace after holding them above her head, brandishing them like a Scottish broadsword wielded by William Wallace on his way to battle the British, and shrieking unintelligible war cries with tears tracking down her face. For a man who was raised by calm parents, it was something of a shock, and I’m not sure he ever quite recovered. On the bright side, though, Greg’s wife is adorable, guys. And none of this comes even close to the phone calls I had to make to my friend, Melissa, the times I decided to watch Legends of the Fall and The Notebook while home alone. I don’t remember all the details, but I do know the situation involved sobbing, a fetal position, and Melissa hollering through the phone, “TURN IT OFF, BETH; it does NOT get better. STOP RIGHT NOW!”

So, you know. Not gonna finish The Time Traveler’s Wife or ever find out how it ends, even though that’s what a reasonable person would do. This way, I can leave Henry and Claire blissfully suspended in their 20’s, desperately in love, happy, and having lots of sex. I expect a thank you note from them any day now.

Unfortunately, my friend Heidi is now concerned she has broken me and that I’ll never be friends with her again. To set the record straight, a) I was broken WAY before the Time Traveler’s Wife, b) I am reading extremely smutty vampire books to make up for the terror and angst TTW has caused so will be fully recovered shortly, and c) I never give this kind of crap to people unless I adore them. Crap-giving and laying blame are my love languages. And also cheese. And fresh salsa with paper thin corn chips. So we’re good, Heidi, et al. Swearsies.

With love,





P.S. For those of you who are fans of tragedy and triumph, however, I do have an actual REAL suggestion, which is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I read The Sparrow before I discovered I’m not emotionally mature enough to read tragedy and triumph. Kind of like how Dumbo flew before he discovered the feather wasn’t actually magic. It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Sparrow is the book, next to the Bible, that has had the most spiritual impact on me in that it gave me words and images to express disenchantment and disillusionment with theology and the church — and a way to restructure my thinking about both — at a time when that was critical to my faith journey. The Sparrow is fictional. It’s sci fi (but only ostensibly). And it’s deep and complex and enthralling and magical and terrible and true. I commend Father Emilio Sandoz to your care should you choose to bring him to life by reading this book; be gentle with him, and kind. He’s my friend, and he deserves our great compassion when we bear witness to his story.

“A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.” <– Sounds fun, right??

P.P.S. Thanks for letting me fly my broken, weirdo flag in front of you all… aka, my “I’m Made out of Human” flag. You’re the greatest.


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26 responses to “A Follow Up on the Time Traveler’s Wife (and a Book Suggestion for Those More Emotionally Mature Than Me… Which Is, Like, All Y’all)”

  1. My big takeaway here is that I’m not the only mom who sucks at setting screen time limits for her children. I’m a freaking middle school reading teacher, and my kids spend ALL WEEKEND glued to screens. I feel awful, and yet–it allows me to get so much of my own reading/writing done!

  2. I highly recommend John Scalzi’s book “Red Shirts” as your next book club book. It manages to be hilarious, like rolling on the floor hilarious, like “Oh my gosh I have to read that part again just because it makes me laugh so much” hilarious, but also very truth-filled and poignant but not – I repeat NOT NOT NOT – a triumphant tragic thingy in ANY WAY AT ALL. Plus, I happen to know you like science fiction from some of the TV shows you rave about, and this particular book won the Hugo Award – which means it was pretty much the awesomest book written in the year it was published.

    ok – seriously, check it out. WAY better thing to do than that TTW….

  3. I read my children’s books. Thankfully they’re up to chapter books, so if people see books lying around the house they can assume they’re my kids’ books (when really they’re mine, too, that I share with the kids). They’re good, quick reads that are happy and light. Or I read books about people who face/usually survive tragedies, like World War II. I’m not sure why. I think they just remind me of the triumphs of Good over evil, and they give me hope. However, even those are better to stick to the kids’ stories sometimes. Never read Sarah’s Key. No, no, no. But Number the Stars? Things like that: yes, yes. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an adult one I’ve enjoyed again this year: funny, with some pathos, but a hopeful book that reminds you of the way good friends and community help us survive horrible circumstances. It also speaks for the power of books and reading to change lives. Plus, when it starts to head toward depressing (WWII stuff here), some of the quirky characters show up and relieve the tension. And they’re hilarious. You would love Isola and Kit. Anyhoo…I’m currently enjoy the books I read as a child, again. Encyclopedia Brown? check. Kirsten from American Girl? Check. Henry Huggins? check. Books from the church library? check. I love that my kids read and give me an excuse to read, too….Then I don’t feel as guilty not reading all the ‘good and worthy’ books I should be reading for my career. Because I’m “vetting” the books my kids are reading by reading them again myself. Win-win!

  4. I gave myself permission years ago to abandon books. If I feel compelled to say I tried extra hard and wasn’t a quitter, I’ll read the ending. Yeah, so what I am barely into the book; judge me all you like. I read the ending, shamelessly. Life’s short; sometimes you gotta take the path through the woods to get where you need to pronto. If the ending seems worth the pain, I might read the whole book. If the ending sucks and the start bits suck, I’m done. Guilt free. I forced myself once to read an entire book and when I got done, I threw it in the trash so enraged I was swearing like a drunk sailor on a bender in some foreign port needing a doctor like no one could believe cuz time’s awastin’. My dad watched me silently throw his book in the trash and was wise enough to leave said book where it deserved to live.

    The other thing I do is read for pleasure. I don’t consult my friends or family or lists or the clouds. I pick up a book, give it a go, we have a hot fling, a long affair or we leave each other cold. My choice entirely. Guilt free too. Book reading is my selfish indulgence to disconnect from my world. It is driven by me, me, me, me with one intent, be entertained.

    Finally I take my depressive episodes from the news. Real people suffer; they can’t turn away from what victimized them. Thus, I attempt to honor them and restore some bit of their dignity and humanity by not turning away. I read the news; if they want or let me, I hold their figurative hands; I try to empathize as best I can; if possible, I push myself to grow as a human to avoid victimizing someone. It reminds me to try to make a difference where and when I can. Mean is easy; kind can be hard. News is a heavy business for me. I take my news reading seriously. I do not take my book reading seriously. Bottom line I turn to books for my pleasure outlets.

    Life’s short; set your boundaries and don’t apologize for them.

  5. I discovered “The Sparrow” this year and LOVED it. Will be giving it to my nephews for Christmas. Wasn’t able to get through the sequel, “The Children of God,” however. It simply was not as compelling.

  6. Can I take a moment to recommend that you avoid “A Fine Balance” at all costs. If you were anxious about the characters in TTTW I’m afraid this one would leave you curled in the fetal position until New Years. I spent the whole book thinking “whyyyyyyyy would anyone write this.” That was before i was mature enough to abandon a book partway through.
    But I really wanted to say how happy it made me to see you talk about The Sparrow. I LOVE that book – it changed my understanding of faith. If I had to get rid of all but 5 books in my library it would make the cut.

  7. I read TTW on a romantic Caribbean holiday. I was recovering from a major breakdown so I actually needed some kind, nurturing, cheering sort of books. However, I am such a book snob so the sort of books I probably need are the kind I wouldn’t be seen dead reading. TTW had been popular and probably had won awards, blah, blah blah. Obviously, I had a terrible feeling of foreboding – that whole thing in the field – but decided it had to have a happy-ish ending. I cried and cried on that beautiful beach. My future husband rolled his eyes and counselled me yet again to stop reading “worthy” books. It’s just so awful! How could that happen to poor Claire??!!!
    Anyway, just to make sure you don’t lose your Scottish readers, I do feel that I should let you know that William Wallace didn’t fight the British. Britain didn’t exist for about another 400 years. It was the wicked English. You need to get Braveheart out!
    Thank you, as always, for making me feel that, even if I am not completely normal, there are people like me all around the world.
    PS Is your kitchen finished yet?

  8. Beth, the Sparrow is one of my all time favorite books, ever. I read it about a year ago and it was a life changer for me. (Who knows, maybe I’m really a mystic Jew.) I hope you read Children of God as well, as the two are really one and the story is not complete at the Sparrow’s end. It has been the most theologically enlightening book(s) I’ve read and how I long to be able to discuss it with you in person someday.

  9. Wait: you’re railing against The Time Travelers Wife and recommending The Sparrow??!! What kind of sadist are you? Melissa recommended it to me shortly after we got married: I had a strong foreboding early in the book that something truly horrible was going to happen and IT WAS WORSE THAN I COULD HAVE POSSIBLY IMAGINED!!! Melissa asked me if I’d ever read the sequel and I said ‘Are you FREAKING kidding?’. And this is from someone who loved books like The Grapes of Wrath and Lonesome Dove, plays like King Lear and Death of a Salesman, and movies like Million Dollar Baby (Legends of the Fall was crap–I was relieved when all those morons were dead).

  10. As soon as I saw the cover of The Sparrow on your post I was going to come to your rescue like “STOP BETH DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IT WILL DESTROY YOU!!” But apparently I was too late. I LOVE this book and it also kind of destroyed me but it’s burned into my soul, so… yeah. Also, similar experience with The Notebook, will NOT be watching that again!! Thanks for being you. 🙂

  11. Yes! ‘One should only read what is truly good or frankly bad’ (Gertrude Stein) is my motto in this, but I am also struggling with my fundamentalist Christian upbringing on the days where nothing will stay in my head for more than five seconds and I turn to smutty books. If you find a way to be nonjudgmental about guilty pleasures, please let me know. No vampires for me though, they make me feel claustrophobic. Regency romances on the other hand..

  12. I laughed a lot reading these posts. I actually love triumphant and tragic books – anything that brings me to tears or leaves me unsettled in my soul inevitably ends up on my “must read” list. My mom, however, refuses to take any more of my book recommendations. Smutty vampires and boppy chick lit is way more her speed. Thankfully both kinds of books are readily available and better than endlessly scrolling facebooks (my other hobby of choice)!

  13. You are horrible to recommend ‘The Sparrow’. Yes, of course it’s amazing and uplifting and transforming but sooooo deeply tragic. Ugg. If you want a faith-journey that doesn’t tear your guts out (or your finger tendons *ahemBETH*) check out ‘The River Why’. It’s charming, thoughtful, witty, funny and even has a love story. Plus it’s set in Oregon!

    • Yeah, I just read the Sparrow because it was recomended on the fb page and oh my goodness feel like I should have been warned. It was amazing but perhaps not the best middle of night read for a postpartum mom while nursing. Still, amazing (might have made my milk sad tasting though)!

      • My milk must have tasted lusty, then, because I almost always read the most recent book in the Outlander series during post-partum!! 😉

  14. Yay! Smutty vampire books to the rescue! But I’ll second the other comment; which ones are you reading? Inquiring minds want to know…

  15. The downside of most of my books being checked out from the library and read on my kindle means I can no longer throw the terrible books across the room-or at least only once and then I’ve broken my kindle

    • Well, now I feel a little bad because I don’t know for sure they’re smutty. I’m more hoping for smut than guaranteeing smut. I’m reading Nalini Singh’s Angels Blood, the first in a series. I’m only 10% in, and so far the writing and world-building are very good. Also, now that I’ve named the author I’m feeling guilty that I used the word smut at all because it’s a derogatory word and I mean it only admiringly. My conservative Christian roots are showing.

      Now back to my hopefully smutty book… 😉

      • Hey now, there’s nothing wrong with tastefully-written “smut.” I have a very dear friend who writes some of the best smut I’ve ever read- and I grew up reading my mom’s old Harlequins. lol (which isn’t really an endorsement, now that I think on it, but she really is a very talented lady.)

        I honestly never got into “smut” before I discovered her through fan fiction (lol I know- I know, guilty pleasure, so sue me.) but now I’ll read it if it’ well done and compelling. Don’t care for the 50-shades-of-barf type nonsense, it has to be well written, but I do enjoy it occasionally. So, solidarity from another conservative-background sister! *high fives*

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