The Time Between
The ending paragraph of The Time Between reads: “We live, we love. These are the choices we are given, to open doors or to close them. It is all we have and it is enough.” Like the ending suggests, this novel speaks wonderfully about the choices we make and how we choose to live with the results of those choices.
Eleanor Murray had her life turned upside down by two tragic events. The first, the death of her father, robbed her of her music. Once he died she lost the heart for playing and closed the door on her dreams of Julliard. The second tragedy was the partial paralysis of her sister, an event for which she takes full blame. Eleanor has gone from a vibrant, dare devil teen full of dreams to a quiet office clerk who plays piano occasionally in her spare time for a few extra bucks.
Her boss, Finn Beaufain, happens upon a bar where she is playing one night and makes her an offer for more stable secondary employment: He has an elderly aunt who needs a companion, a music lover who would doubtless appreciate Eleanor’s skill far more than her current drunken clientele. Eleanor accepts, a bit trepidatious about spending more time in the formidable Mr. Beaufain’s company, but anxious to improve her current financial situation. And it needs improving. Eleanor currently lives with her sister, her sister’s husband, and her mother. The four of them share one rather dilapidated old car. Her sister brings in a trickle of funds through sewing and her brother-in-law has a job but almost all of their funds go to paying for his college degree. Mom watches TV all day. To say things are tight is putting a gracious spin on a tough situation.
Eleanor is not surprised that Finn’s Aunt Helena is less than thrilled to have a companion thrust upon her. She knows how difficult it is to have your choices made for you, to feel you have no say in what you do or who you are with. Determined to make this work – and knowing just what is needed to do so- Eleanor enters a gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) battle of wills and wit with Helena. Surprisingly, their minor skirmishes result in a renewed appreciation for life in both women. They gain a grudging respect for each other which slowly turns to admiration. As they grow closer Eleanor learns the tale of Helena’s past which involves a daring escape from WWII Hungary. She also learns the costs paid for that escape by Helena and her sister and how the secrets of the past have power over us only as long as we keep them buried.
This story pulled me in from the first chapter and didn’t let me go. I was fascinated by Eleanor’s (Ellie’s) home life which depicted perfectly how families can turn into train wrecks with no one knowing how to fix the problems. Equally captivating was the way that train wreck pulled even a bright star like Ellie into the mud, making her a penitent for a crime we aren’t even sure she committed.
Which lead me to another factor I loved about the book – the pacing. This story isn’t so much about mysteries as it is about secrets. The revelation of each piece of those secrets is timed perfectly. Each disclosure comes precisely when the character needs to tell it – or when the listener is ready to receive it. As we learn the secrets that bind everyone to their pasts we get a unique and fascinating look into the human spirit. When should we keep our silence? When will our words do more harm than good? These are questions we grapple with in everyday life and which affect our characters in big ways and small.
Ellie, Finn and all their support cast are amazingly, vibrantly brought to life in this story. I couldn’t help but feel that I pass people just like them every day as I walk through the grocery store or pick my kids up at school. This sense of familiarity coupled with the intimacy that can only be achieved by reading another’s thoughts helped make the tale all the more real and powerful.
The romance felt very real as well. Finn and Ellie have good reason to approach each other with caution. Quietly, almost beyond their control and certainly with no conscious plan, they begin to realize how much better their lives are with the other person in them. Once more the author reveals her mastery of pacing by leading our characters toward their HEA with impeccable, slow measured timing.
Quiet stories about personal growth and love take a lot of skill to pull off but when done right they can be a more riveting read than those full of action and adventure. This one is done right and I am delighted to recommend it.