How to Stop Time? For Tom Hazard, time is an albatross.
In this novel, our main character Tom has a rare condition that makes him age slowly. It isn’t unusual for someone in his condition to live 1,000 years.
Tom Hazard’s lifespan isolates him from the rest of society. The love of his life is dead, his daughter is missing, and the secret protective society he joined owns his life. It is a secret to be kept; a lifetime of loss.
“It made me lonely. And when I say lonely, I mean the kind of loneliness that howls through you like a desert wind. It wasn’t just the loss of people I had known but also the loss of myself. The loss of who I had been when I had been with them.”
– Matt Haig, How to Stop Time
Immortality presents many narrative possibilities to an author. In his years, Tom rubs elbows with Tchaikovsky, Shakespeare, Captain Cook, Josephine Baker, and many other notable figures in history. His trip through time seems more like a series of disconnected “bump-up-againsts” similar to Forrest Gump. Almost a who’s who of celebrity and pop culture sightings.
It isn’t until around halfway through that the book begins to take hold.
Up to then, Tom’s plight just isn’t emotionally grabbing enough. His brushes with famous people lack cohesion or a solid place in the story’s progression. Even his relationship with Rose lacks chemistry.
Perhaps I was expecting time to weigh more heavily on him.
I keep thinking of how masterfully Anne Rice’s characters grappled with immortality in The Vampire Lestat. Endless time is ecstasy and torture. While Tom said he was haunted by his lost love, I never really felt it.
But then, his journey becomes more of a, well, journey. We see his trepidation about new and forbidden love, his yearning for his daughter (which by the way, why didn’t he keep looking for her himself? Why did he task the society with finding her and then pretty much throw his hands in the air and deem himself absolved of responsibility from that point forward?), his need to stop living in fear.
The final half of the book is more compelling. The final solution is a bit rushed and adds an element that isn’t necessary, but otherwise nicely wraps up what turned out to be a nice time travel story.