Traveling to the future is their only chance to stay together—as long as time doesn’t tear them apart.
“People wishing to time travel go to Houston Intercontinental Airport,” begins Lim’s shimmering debut novel. The year is 1981, time travel is possible, and a flu pandemic has ravaged the globe. Frank and Polly, a young couple from Buffalo, are navigating the world together until Frank gets sick. In an effort to save him, Polly enters into a contract with TimeRaiser, a company that sends healthy people to the future to work in exchange for medical treatment for their infected loved ones. The couple promises to meet in Texas the year Polly is set to arrive, but something unexpected derails their plans. It’s only when Polly reaches her destination—sprawling, crumbling, unknowable—that she realizes the devastating decision she’s made (“it was irreversible, and only comprehensible after it was done”). Told from Polly’s point of view, the novel oscillates between the present and future—a jarring juxtaposition that’s equally touching and heartbreaking. While Polly’s future is unrecognizable, there are a few depressing tenants that remain: all-consuming capitalism, sexual violence, and extreme wealth inequality are a few. The novel’s unsettling tone ensures the reader remains as confused as Polly. Where the United States of America had been, there is now the United States and America. A land divided by borders, wealth, and something far more precious: normalcy. Lim’s writing shines brightest when she’s ruminating on time, memory, and love: “No matter what happens, the past has a permanence. The past is safe,” and “Eventually this white noise of optimism would completely fuzz over her memories of their minutiae: their laughter, musk, tics, gripes, singing, skin.”
A beautiful debut exploring how time, love, and sacrifice are never what they seem to be.