Book Description (Amazon): In Mitch Albom’s newest work of fiction, the inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years.
Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.
He returns to our world–now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began–and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.
Told in Albom’s signature spare, evocative prose, this remarkably original tale will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time, how they spend it, and how precious it truly is.
My Review (Spoilers!):
Executive Summary: refreshing
So this was my choice for book club this year. My category that I was to pick a book from was “recent New York best seller”. I don’t really follow the books that are on that list, so it was kind of a weird category for me. I looked for something out of 2012 (we pick books at the end of the previous year), but I didn’t realize how much of the NY Times Best Seller list was “beach reads”. I guess it makes sense but I would have a hard time picking a Janet Evanovich or John Grisham novel for book club. So I eventually settled on The Time Keeper. I hadn’t read any of Albom’s other books but I had heard good things about them, and the plot of this book sounded interesting. It was.
The prologue introduces the reader to Father Time in his cave listening to the voices of the people on Earth who all want time–specifically Sarah Lemon who wishes that time would move faster and Victor Delamonte who wishes that he had more time.
The main part of the book begins meeting three children–Dor, Alli, and Nim. Dor is the first human on earth to begin counting.
Then we find out more about Sarah Lemon–a teenager waiting for a date.
And then Victor Delamonte–a rich man who has just returned from the doctor with obviously bad news.
The book continues in this pattern of telling all stories nearly simultaneously. I am not fully going to split the story that way because I think it will be too confusing. (I’m not a professional author after all).
The three children continue to grow. Nim becomes strong and helps his father who is a builder while Dor continues to count each and every thing eventually measuring days. Eventually Dor and Alli get married and have children. Nim has become a king, and with his importance is building a tower to the sky so that he can defeat the gods and rule over all (a la Tower of Babel). He asks Dor for help. Dor explains what he has learned but tells Nim that he will not help with the tower. Nim says that Dor will be imprisoned in the tower like the other dissenters. Dor and Alli decide to leave and live somewhere they can’t be found when Alli becomes sick after encountering some sick visitors. Dor becomes understandably angry and asks the gods for help. He decides to run back to the city, climb Nim’s tower, and make time stop. As Dor runs up the tower, it begins to crumble, but he is somehow lifted into a cave and saved.
When he awakes he sees an old man (unclear whether this is God or Father Time #1 or who exactly. The book says it’s “His servant”). The old man explains that Dor must begin to understand the consequences of counting every moment and then the old man disappears.
As Dor remains in the cave, he hears the voices of all the people in the world asking for more time, another day, etc., while he is stuck in a place where time doesn’t exist. After an unknown period of time, when the stalactite and stalagmite (heaven and earth) in the cave meet, the old man returns. Dor must go to earth and find two souls on earth–one who wants too much time and one who wants too little time–and he must teach them about what he has learned over all the years. It is pretty obvious who he is going to pick.
Sarah and her mom have issues. Her parents are divorced. Her mom is trying to reach Sarah but doesn’t really know how. Sarah is described as a studious girl, unpopular and somewhat unattractive and overweight. She also has no friends (which strikes me as really weird. who has NO friends? Even the “unpopular” kids had friends. It’s weird.) She decides to begin volunteering at a soup kitchen to help bolster her résumé for college. There she meets this cool popular boy, Ethan, who agrees to meet her for a date. He predictably blows her off last minute, and she begins counting the time until she can see him again.
Vincent is an important fellow. He has cancer but wants immortality. He is in a marriage with a woman Grace and the spark there is all but gone. He doesn’t tell her about his plan to cryogenically freeze his body just before he dies so that he can be revitalized sometime in the future when science can fix him so he can continue to live. Vincent and his lawyers make all the important decisions to ensure that his estate is settled and that he will go to the cryogenics facility.
So Dor decides to wander around playing with his hourglass–speeding up time and then slowing it down. He takes a job at a watch shop while he determines which two souls to save.
Stupidly Sarah decides to push for another date with Ethan. The date is drinking vodka in his uncle’s warehouse and awkwardly kissing while Ethan tries for more. Instead of realizing that this is a lost cause, she decides that she is going to buy him a Christmas present–a watch of course.
Victor decides that he should buy himself a watch that will be stopped at the exact moment he is frozen. He obviously ends up at the watch shop as well.
Dor finds them each the perfect watch and knows that he has found the two souls that he needs.
Sarah finds that Ethan has said mean things about her on Facebook (and that others have chimed in with other mean things). She cannot possibly go on so she decides to commit suicide by suffocating in the running car.
Victor sends Grace off to the charity dinner and in the mean time, he heads to the facility to be frozen.
Just as they are both about to die, Dor saves them and takes them to a place of no time. Like the ghost of Christmas Future, he shows them what their futures will be if they continue down their paths. Sarah’s mom will be sad. Some guy she never noticed at the soup kitchen will miss her. (Pretty weak there but let’s go with it for the time being.) Vincent sees his wife and her pain of the secrecy and the fact that she will never have solace. He sees his future where he is awakened in a world where people have endless time. The laws and regulations that he had initially agreed to have all but vanished. His body is partially revived as a freak show relic where his memories and dreams are broadcast for people to view. He is obviously aghast by this. Since both Sarah and Vincent viewed each other’s futures as well as their own, they have drawn a closer bond.
Dor’s task is now complete. He drops to the ground and Vincent and Sarah pull together to return him to the old man. (It’s not exactly clear how they figured out how to do that.) The old man restores Dor to his old life and he returns to Alli. He doesn’t count the time, just stays with her until they become one with the universe.
In the epilogue, Sarah is taken to the hospital after managing to call 911. Victor tells his lawyer the safe word, and he reunites with Grace (his safe word is Grace <3). Sarah goes on to cure the cancer that Victor died from after he paid for her tuition to a very good university. He had only lived a few months after the encounter with Dor but they were happy. Everything has a warm happy ending.
Verdict: 3.5 stars
I liked this book., but I wanted more. I would have found it interesting to follow multiple people initially and then focus specifically on the two lost souls. I can certainly think of more stories of people in my own life who would have reiterated the point of the novel well. I also thought Sarah’s story was predictable, weak and unrealistic. Even smart kids have friends! I also found the writing style to be a bit tedious at time. 3 paragraphs at a time about each character can get really jumpy.
I did like that this book was different in terms of the style. We don’t read a lot of fables in our book club, so I think it was a bit refreshing. And of course, I found the underlying message to be good. Value the time that you have. Live in the moment and make the most of each and every moment that you have. I think that those are good mottos to try to live by especially in this busy world.