Desert Isle Keeper
Time After Time
Dizzying time loops, fascinating human stories, and a really lovely romance captivate in Lisa Grunwald’s Time After Time. To tell the reader too much about its plot is to reveal too much about its central mystery; this is the kind of book that requires the retention of a little of the element of surprise going in.
When Joe Reynolds, the youngest leverman in Grand Central Station’s history, first speaks with high class sophisticate Nora Lansing, he’s taken aback by her beauty – and her lack of warm clothing on a freezing cold December day. Noticeable because of her completely out-of-place twenties slang and style, Nora is displaced and frustrated – but they nonetheless get on like a house on fire. Joe offers to walk Nora home to Turtle Bay Gardens. But Nora suddenly disappears en route when Joe is confronted by a kid trying to mug him for his watch. Joe is left with no way to find the girl who’s so enchanted him.
It takes a year, but she resurfaces in his life once more. They are parted again a few blocks from Grand Central, thanks to the same disappearing act from Nora. Joe finally reaches out to her father in frustration – and learns an awful truth about Nora. She’s not merely lost in Grand Central Station. She’s trapped there.
Nora is an artist of developing talents and fierce independence – she’s become trapped in a loop of time connected to December fifth and Manhattanhenge, a certain light phenomena that hits downtown Manhattan involving its skyscrapers and the setting sun – and whose strong beam of light into Nora’s terminal at Grand Central may be her bane or boon. She seems to have no idea why she can’t leave the subway station. But now, at least, she has Joe.
Over the years and with determination, Joe and Nora carve out a life for themselves around the inconsistent rules of Nora’s existence. But when another woman becomes a bigger part of their lives – and Joe begins to strain at the bonds tying him to New York – the two lovers will have to decide whether or not they’re forever fated, or forever star-crossed.
Time After Time is a swoon worthy combination of heartbreak, romance, character study and the indomitable spirit of adventure. Its characters are memorable, their plights inventive, and the romance that centers it all a little bit enviable, a little bit nightmarish.
Nora is a great heroine – strong, flawed, and evolving slowly into a better person because she loves Joe and, through him, begins to reach out to others. Joe is younger and more credulous – educated by pain and love, he grows as a person as his horizons expand beyond Nora and their romance.
Their love is bittersweet, complicated and fraught, and yet they move mountainGs and make great sacrifices for one another. It’s also a lot of fun and very playfully innocent sometimes.
The events of the world leak into Nora and Joe’s oasis and complicate their lives; the pain of World War II and its effects on their lives is well-examined, from its tragedies to the purpose working with the Red Cross gives Nora. The Depression is also touched upon, as well as the changes Grand Central goes through from the 1920s through the post-war construction boom of the 1940s.
The secondary characters in the book are interesting; I liked Joe’s brother, Finn, and his friendships with his fellow railway workers.
The book’s worldbuilding is fascinating but has its flaws, and if you think a little too hard about some of the bigger picture problems, the story will fall apart. You’ll get the hows and whys of Nora’s existence, but some questions will make you raise your hand, a confused kid stuck in an unsuitable class.
My best advice, therefore, is to enjoy Time After Time as an emotional rollercoaster and a solid character study of the lives of two characters in Depression and World War II-era New York City. Some confections shouldn’t be ruined by too much logic.