Good guy Karl Bender is a thirty-something bar owner whose life lacks love and meaning. When he stumbles upon a time-travelling worm hole in his closet, Karl and his best friend Wayne develop a side business selling access to people who want to travel back in time to listen to their favorite bands. It’s a pretty ingenious plan, until Karl, intending to send Wayne to 1980, transports him back to 980 instead. Though Wayne sends texts extolling the quality of life in tenth century “Mannahatta,” Karl is distraught that he can’t bring his friend back.
Enter brilliant, prickly, overweight astrophysicist, Lena Geduldig. Karl and Lena’s connection is immediate. While they work on getting Wayne back, Karl and Lena fall in love — with time travel, and each other. Unable to resist meddling with the past, Karl and Lena bounce around time. When Lena ultimately prevents her own long-ago rape, she alters the course of her life and threatens her future with Karl.
A high-spirited and engaging novel, Mo Daviau’s EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE plays ball with the big questions of where we would go and who we would become if we could rewrite our pasts, as well as how to hold on to love across time.
When I turned the last page, I was sure my rating would be a full five stars. Then a few hours passed, and it went down to four. Then, three. I hate to do that, as much fun as I had reading it, but I found too many issues with the implications of the story to give more stars than three.
When Karl makes a little dig at The Time Traveler’s Wife towards the beginning of the book, I chuckled and hoped that was a good sign. While I will most likely always be a fan of Audrey Niffenegger’s prose, there is so much wrong with that story once a few rereads strip away the raw emotionality of your response. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that Every Anxious Wave, despite its fun, creative out-set, possessed some of those very same problems.
I don’t really buy Karl and Lena’s relationship. Like Henry and Clare in The Time Traveler’s Wife, they sort of just…fall in love. Because time travel. And a similar taste in bands. I understand how that can spark a relationship, but I can’t buy that it keeps one going. They just seemed so completely different, so self-absorbed. I suppose I just can’t picture it working out for them in the long run. It felt more like unhealthy obsession turned stalking turned settling rather than true love.
I’m also bothered by the moral ambiguity that the book leaves unresolved. Karl has a crisis when he realizes interacting with the past can have major repercussions on the present, including causing people not to be born, and then he seems to just…be okay with it. If time traveling to the past really is immoral because of this, it seems like people in the future would be less ambivalent about it.
That being said, I really did enjoy this book much more thanThe Time Traveler’s Wife. The methods of time travel were fairly unique, and everyone got to take their clothes with them, thankfully. The prose is quite lovely and the dialogue, while unnatural feeling at times, is witty and elicited the occasional out-loud laugh from me, which is not a usual occurrence.
I recommend this for people who enjoy time travel fiction that is not hard sci-fi. If that’s what you’re looking for, move along. But if you’re looking for a mostly light and fun romp through the time-space continuum, give this one a try.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.