An Ocean of Minutes
By: Thea Lim
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
In the vein of The Time Travelerís Wife and Station Eleven, a sweeping literary love story about two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart.
America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan: time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.
But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.
An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story about the endurance and complexity of human relationships and the cost of holding onto the past–and the price of letting it go.
Been eyeing this book since I first heard of it…the year before? I can’t remember now but I got around to picking it up last year (trying to avoid the same scenario with Madeline Thein’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing where there was no stock for a while). It was long listed for Canada Reads 2019 this year so yeah, got around to reading it a while ago 🙂
Oh man, this book. Thea Lim does such a wonderful job in bringing this dystopian/alternative 1990s to life in this novel. It felt so plausible and seamless, from the flu epidemic that swept the world, the division of the United States in two and the labour system that emerged, how time travel and its commercialisation/marketisation has developed in this society. Someone had akin Polly’s experiences to that of an immigrant, which actually didn’t occur to me at first even as she navigated the system; the dystopian elements seemed to be in the forefront in my mind as I moved along, the further devolution of individuals as human capital in the system. The world that Polly finds herself navigating is plausible and unnerving, I felt for Polly’s safety, both physically and just in the hopes that she would find her loved ones.
The book was beautifully written, that sense of nostalgia and longing is just infused in every sentence as Polly struggles in the future and in her hopes of reuniting with Frank.
Overall I enjoyed reading An Ocean of Minutes and I’m glad I got around to reading it. It kind of reminded me a bit of Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno (and not just because their book covers feature warm colours!) for some reason–maybe that sense of longing that just permeates throughout the book–but it’s an interesting read. I highly recommend it.