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Thursday, July 07, 2011

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I try to read all of the Newbery Award winners. The most recent of these enjoyable trips into reading was When  You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. (There is a Wikipedia article on the book. You can read that article for more on the plot of the book.)

One aspect of the book is time travel plays a central role. The main characters don't engage in it, and the book does not attempt to give much of a description of how time travel works, or what a time traveler might experience, but without one character, who does do time travel, the plot would have fallen apart.

Is time travel possible? We don't know, according to the Wikipedia article on the subject. Even if it is possible, would a human being be able to experience it? If so, would a human be able to return? Obviously, we don't know the answers to those questions, either.

Why the fascination with Time Travel? (Not everyone is fascinated by it, of course, but clearly some writers of fiction, and their readers, are. The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells, The Narnia books by C. S. Lewis, a series of award-winning books by Connie Willis, and The Time Traveler's Wife come to mind.) I suppose that one reason is that we would like to know what really happened in the past. For example, does Exodus describe the travels of the Israelites realistically? When did humans enter North America, and what were they like? Was Franklin Roosevelt surprised by Pearl Harbor? What were dinosaurs really like? What happened during the last hours of Julius Caesar? Most people probably have questions about their family, or their own early life, that aren't considered in history books, or covered by contemporary news media. Another reason is that most of us have experienced occasions where, it would seem, we might have acted differently than we did, and, we guess, we and others might now be better off if we had.

Lastly, there is a moral question, and Stead brings it up, although she doesn't make a big deal out of it. Should we go back in time to make things right, or perhaps to unselfishly protect someone else, even at the cost of our own lives?

Interesting questions. I don't have much in the way of answers. However, one way of looking at the life of Christ is that He came into time, from some sort of existence outside of time, to unselfishly make all of our protection possible. And it cost Him something to do that.

Finally, I note that Stead was influenced by Madeleine L'Engle's work, and especially by A Wrinkle in Time. Wrinkle is referred to in the book.

Thanks for reading!

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