Book Review: An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

In her heart, the past was not another time, but another place that still existed. It was just that she had taken a wrong turn. One day, she would figure it out and she would go back to the house where she has lived, and it would not be lost to the violence of time, the roof caved in. It would be just said she left it, and she would look up at the front of the house, and see the light on in the bedroom window.
In her literary debut, Thea Lim imagines a world where time travel has become the sole means for battling a rampant flu pandemic. An Ocean of Minutes explores the lengths people will go for their loved ones and the ways true love may or may not stand the test of time.
“Why don’t they stop the pandemic, then? If they can’t ant time travel, why don’t they travel back in time to Patient Zero and stop him from coughing on Patient One?” “They tried.” The woman spoke with her mouth full. “The earliest attainable destination is June of ’81. Seven months too late.”
TimeRaiser is a company that has patented time travel as the means through which desperate, healthy individuals can secure treatment for their loved ones infected with the pandemic flu strain. If they choose, they can be sent to a future date where they are required to work in a variety of positions to improve the future that remains in the post-pandemic world.
Polly and Frank are two people in love, and the story alternates between the early days of their relationship and the present struggles they face. On the brink of forever together, Frank becomes one of those infected with the virus and Polly does the only thing she can, in that moment, to save the love of her life. She agrees to travel from 1981 to 1993 where she will work as an upholsterer and furniture repair person in order to save Frank’s life.
Outside, she takes two days to make the choice to travel. Inside, immediately, she knows. The meatball sandwiches, the bubbles on the winds, her baby’s thighs. All that love. It can’t die. It has to go somewhere. They’re future will be unthinkably different from what they imagined, and in other ways it will be exactly the same: she will give her life to him.
Before she boards the craft that will propel her into the unknown future, Polly and Frank make a pact to meet each other in the year 1993—to begin again from a new point and to live in the love they planned before the flu altered their path. However, when Polly disembarks, she discovers something has gone terribly wrong.
Polly tried again for someone in charge. “What year is it? Please?”
Finally, an official replied, “It’s nineteen ninety-” then the last number was garbled.
“It’s nineteen ninety-three?”
“I said nineteen ninety-“
 “It’s nineteen ninety-three? She mewed. The world started to revolve and she cried out until she realized someone was turning her gurney.
“See for yourself,” the voice said.
Instead of the previously agreed upon destination of 1993, Polly has been rerouted to 1998 and the world looks completely different than she expected. Galveston, Texas, where she currently resides, is now in a completely different country and the city of Buffalo that she knew is across the border—a line in the sand that she cannot cross.
She had signed the papers, she had agreed, and now she only had herself to blame. She had done it all without understanding the weight of what she was doing. Until this moment, the choice she made had kept it’s true, perverse nature secret: it was irreversible, and only comprehensible after it was done.
So Polly forges on, doing what she can in the new constraints of the future to honor her agreement with Frank, to find the man she loves, struggling all the while the forget that much more time has passed in his life since they last met than has passed in hers.
As the story continues, Lim crafts a new future for Polly while also building upon the past. We are able to see how Frank’s and Polly’s relationship came to be while also watching Polly as she carves out a place for herself amidst the unexpected discoveries she makes daily. But underneath it all, these questions remain: Will Polly and Frank reunite? Will love prevail? How long would you wait?
People might say, Seventeen years- that’s craziness! He can’t still be waiting for you. From a completely objective standpoint, the odds were poor. But in that secret, covered place, below breast bone and sinew and pumping ventricles, Polly always knew he was coming. And now the actual surrendered to the imagined: Frank was trying to find her. He was here, not only in the past, that distant place, but in the present.
A review copy of this title was provided by Touchstone Books

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