I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
Published by Touchstone on July 10, 2018
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Time Travel
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In the vein of The Time Traveler’s 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.
“TimeRaiser is a good company. We’ll protect you. Today, or rather tomorrow, is the first day of the rest of your life. It’s a gift.”
In the year 1981, the flu has devastated the world. When the ability to time travel becomes a reality, doctors attempt to go back to the beginning to prevent the flu from ever becoming an issue but limitations on travel prevent them from going back that far. Being infected is certain death and when Polly’s boyfriend Frank becomes infected, she agrees to a 32-month contract with TimeRaiser: in exchange for medical aid to cure Frank, Polly will travel to the year 1993 to help rebuild the physical elements of society. Goodbyes are conducted quickly with the two promising to meet the year she was due to arrive except Polly finds herself in the year 1998 instead. Filled with uncertainty in a world that used to be familiar, Polly must learn to cope with the past decisions that have changed her future irrevocably.
‘She had done it all without understanding the weight of what she was doing. Until this moment, the choice she’d made had kept its true, perverse nature secret: it was irreversible, and only comprehensible after it was done.’
With flashes between past and present, An Ocean of Minutes tells the story of Frank and Polly and why Polly would be willing to make such a monumental decision so that the two of them had a chance for a shared future. This story shares many genres, time travel, post-apocalyptic, and romance, but Lim balances the elements nicely and one never overwhelmed the other. The post-apocalyptic aspects were eerie, with the United States of America being divided into a section called The United States and a separate section called America. TimeRaiser’s employees are assigned codes based on the type of work they are assigned to do with some individuals making new tiles for new flooring, or other individuals ride exercise bikes all day to power resorts (reminding me vividly of Fifteen Million Merits. Any Black Mirror fans?) Polly is fortunate enough to be a skilled laborer and is assigned to restore old furniture where she’s granted certain liberties that regular “Journeymen” are not.
Life is still far from easy and nothing like the life that she left behind and Polly is forced to deal with far more than she ever anticipated when she signed up. Finding Frank is always at the forefront of her mind and was what kept these pages turning most for me: I was eager to know if Polly’s sacrifices would pay off for her and possibly Frank as well. The story’s pace is admittedly unhurried and despite the shocking nature of the world Polly finds herself in, it’s not exactly what I would call thrilling. Despite all this, I found myself completely enthralled in finding out the ending. The story concludes instead with a life lesson on impermanence, the reality of change, and a bit of a cynical approach to love. Realistic or not, I found it concluded most disappointingly.
‘In her heart, the past was not another time, but another place that still existed. It was just that she had taken a wrong turn.’
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