Tom Hazard looks 41-years-old but he has a rare condition. He ages at a slower rate and is actually four-hundred-and-thirty-nine-years old. Tom is protected by a secret society for people like him and with their help, he must move around every 8 years to not create suspension. The number one rule to this secret club, don’t fall in love which hasn’t been a problem for Tom. This time around he decides he will move back to his old stomping grounds, London, to become a high school history teacher but when he meets a woman at work he starts to remember the fulfillment and hurt that comes with any life. Now, Tom’s current life is haunted by his past experiences and he must decide if he will stay stuck in his former memories or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time alternates between present-day London and Tom’s many past memories but I was never confused. Haig does a good job of keeping the story moving but not disorganized. The synopsis of the book will have you think this is a love story between two people but I think it is about following Tom during a time when he feels his life is spent and is questioning his place not only in the world but in the secret society. There is a love story but it’s not the novel’s main focus like the movie, “The Age of Adeline” or the book, The Time Traveler’s Wife. The romance is slow burning and a reader may be confused when they start reading and find nothing happens with this present day romance until the last half of the book. It takes Tom a long time to accept his feelings. I think the main theme of the book was more about the heaviness of being alive. How a group of people you thought was protecting and helping you may have been hurting you? Also, seeing the good, “to love food and music and champagne and rare sunny afternoons in October. You can love the sight of waterfalls and the smell of old books.”
I really enjoyed this book. I found myself marking many passages that stuck with me. The read can be a little slow at times (what life is always exciting?) but it was quite thrilling by the end.
Some favorite quotes:
“That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days – some years – some decades – are empty. There is nothing to them. It’s just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.”
“And, just as it only takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. You just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself: who am I? If I could live without doubt what would I do? If I could be kind without the fear of being fucked over? If I could love without fear of being hurt? If I could taste the sweetness of today without thinking of how I will miss that taste tomorrow? If I could not fear the passing of time and the people it will steal? Yes. What would I do? Who would I care for? What battle would I fight? Which paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself? What internal mysteries would I solve? How, in short, would I live?”