‘The Time Keeper’ by Mitch Albom

I read a few books in April but have decided to review The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom. The blurb of the book immediately appealed to me, and having enjoyed his previous work I decided to give it a read. As usual, there will spoilers.

The book begins by switching between three characters: Sarah, who is hung up on the boy that she speaks to every weekend at her volunteer job, but who ignores her at school; Victor, a man who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to try and cheat death; and Dor, a man who lived thousands of years ago, and who was the first person to record the rising and setting of the sun, thereby becoming the first person ever to measure time.

Time is always a brilliant theme to experiment with, but this is the first time I’ve seen a novel explore the concept like this. We take for granted looking at our watch or phone to see if we are late or early for things, relative to a specific moment in the day. The rising and setting of the sun is natural, therefore ‘days’ are natural, but their naming and measuring is man-made. There had to be a first person to measure it. This story is about that person, and how his obsession became the obsession of the whole world.

Through the polar opposites of Sarah and Victor, the author is able to address both of the big concerns with time – how we should appreciate the time, this gift, we have, yet how we should not worry about our own mortality. One quotation from the novel sums it up:

There is a reason God limits our days.

Why?

To make each one precious.

For the character himself, this is a turning point. This is the man obsessed with time, the man who left the love of his life in her final moments to try to reach the Heavens and beg for more, only to be punished for centuries by billions of voices asking for the same thing.

If you’re after an epic plot with twists and turns, you’re not going to get that from this book. However, if you like philosophical issues, this is the quotation that convinced me to pick it up:

Try to imagine a life without timekeeping.

You probably can’t.

You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.

Man alone measures time.

Man alone chimes the hour.

And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralysing fear that no other creature endures.

A fear of time running out.

There are lots of quotable quotes in this book, which is what I like about Albom’s writing style. He considers the most effective ways to express ideas. His books may be short, but he constructs paragraphs to pack a punch. If you like a quick read that will still be worth your while, I would recommend any of his books. This one will make you think and is enjoyable, but I still have a soft spot for his other novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Four stars from me.

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