J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Book review: The Time Keeper

One of my favorite things about my wife’s family is that they are ALL readers. Her 18 year old sister reads YA like it’s her job. Her dad spent a lot of the snowy days over Christmas reading an old Tom Clancy “Jack Ryan” novel. Her grandfather has probably read every single cheesy old sci-fi novel the public library has on its shelves. Her grandmother literally reads a book a day.

So when they heard I also like to read, they decided to buy me a book for Christmas.* Since I am notoriously fickle on what I like to read, they simply gave me the most mainstream, popular author they could think of that they liked. That author was Mitch Albom, and the book? The Time Keeper.

*Of course, that wasn’t the only thing they bought me. They also got me some tools, and a Costco membership. Suhweet!


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.

I’ve heard of this guy’s work in the past. The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Tuesdays with Morrie were both #1 sellers, as is this book. So once I finished reading my Sherlock Holmes anthology (check my last entry for a review on that one), I tore through this one. It was a brisk read, at just over 200 pages.

So, how did I like it?

What I liked:

The writing style. It was a bit jarring to me at first, but this book is built out of 70+ tiny chapters that barely make 2 pages each. I’m used to reading juggernauts that have 10+ pages per chapter, so I always felt like I was just settling into the narrative every time it ended. I didn’t like that at all, at first. But I grew to really be impressed at how much detail and story Alboum can cram into a chapter in such a small number of words.

It’s a simple lesson of “less is more”.

The characters. I’ll be honest and say that I liked the characters, even though none of them were particularly unique or creative. But for the purposes of this story, it didn’t really need any – it just needed characters that were relatable. And in that regard, it succeeded.

It doesn’t hurt that we’ve all met a girl like Sarah in our lives, I think. It was easy to picture her, and to cringe at her misadventure in what she thought was love. Though not many people will ever meet a man like Victor in terms of a billionaire businessman, we will all know an older, dying person who wishes they had just a little more time to live.

The “It’s a wonderful life” style “what-if” scenarios. Dor, aka father time, has a mission. An odd mission, but a mission nonetheless. He waits thousands of years to show someone who wants too much time, and another who wants too little time, the error of their thinking. This is… an ambitiously simple plot, I think, but there was one part I really enjoyed. He convinces Sarah and Victor that they chose foolishly by showing them the fallout of their decisions. Sarah’s is… heartrending, and Victor’s is wildly creative and interesting. I won’t spoil either, but I thought this was a bright spot of the book, by far.

What I didn’t like:

The plot. I know what I said a minute ago. Less is more. But that being said, I’m uncertain of whether or not the plot to this book was really worthy of a full sized novel. Sarah and Victor’s stories were good, but rather straightforward and simple. And honestly, Dor’s story at the beginning was… okay, but nothing inspiring. Reflecting on the book after I read it, I decided it might have been better if more attention had been spent on the good parts (Sarah and Victor), and just bring in Dor as the mysterious man who can stop time, like a Christian themed Gandalf or something. There is really no downside to it. Him reuniting with his lost love still works at the end, his past is still poignant if we’re exposed to it later rather than the beginning.

But then I realized… that couldn’t happen. The book would be maybe 100ish pages without Dor’s POV. It wouldn’t even be long enough to be a novel anymore. Therefore, the plot is a weakness by default.

The climax.  I’ve said it many a time, but any plot that involves any sort of time travel will inevitably get really messy. This book is no different in that regard. It has no buildup, no foreshadowing, and sort of feels like a deus ex machina. It’s easy to cover up with a simple “Because God”, but even as someone who identifies as Christian, I wanted to see a bit more put into it. At least the payoff was nice and heartwarming all around.

 

 

The Verdict:

I’d say this book rates a *** rating. Despite its obvious flaws, I really did like this book. It just is lacking much substance, so it’s not really going to make me think hard, or remember the characters years down the road. It also doesn’t make me immediately want to go read the other works of Mitch Albom. I can see why he’s popular, but it’s not the stuff I get excited about reading on a regular basis.

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This entry was posted on January 2, 2015 by in Books, Literacy, Reviews and tagged , , , , , .
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