The Contrived and Generic. Mitch Albom’s first (and hopefully last) disappointment; The Time Keeper

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

The Time Keeper Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom will always be an author I hold close to my heart. The best selling memoir Tuesdays With Morrie was the first novel, as a child, that struck me to the core and allowed me to see how a work of fiction has the power to make us reevaluate our own lives and apply such themes to our own experiences. I can remember it being the one of those books I was eager to recommend and has stayed with me well and truly into my adult life. I think we can all agree; it’s a sign of a great novelist if their work continues to impress after the final paragraph. Needless to say, as it’s been over a decade since I was first introduced to Albom, I was excited to find his third most recent novel The Time Keeper amongst the trove of books in my parent’s house. Seriously impressed by the reviews from other writers, I was expecting inner truths to hit me over the head with every twist and turn in Albom’s distinct and simple style. Yet, I must say, I was disappointed. Cecilia Ahern says that ‘Mitch Albom sees the magical in the ordinary” well I’m sorry Cecilia, this time Mitch only managed to create an incredibly simple story and I am yet to see the magic.

Was The Time Keeper as heartrending and relatable as Tuesdays With Morrie or The Five People You Meet in Heaven?

I can’t say it was. As the name suggests, The Time Keeper, is about the six thousand years of purgatory Father Time has to endure for becoming the first man to ever begin measuring time. Using such a subject matter of time, which we all, pretty much have the same concept of, could only have been a meal ticket for Albom to use as a platform to address real issues and give him the freedom to inject his inner truths he usually does so well. However, this story, though incredibly simple in both language and style, to me seems more contrived than anything else. I instantly revolt against any story that is not gripping enough or thought provoking enough that I vision the author’s writing process instead of focusing on the story.

Can the paralysing fear Father Time endures inspire readers to reconsider our own notions of time? No. Unfortunately not.

This is a tale of Father Time and his task set to him by a mysterious bearded fellow to change the lives of a young teenage girl seeking to prematurely end the amount of time given to her and a successful business man seeking to extend his life through extraordinary measures. Like any fable since the dawn of time, I do understand that it is best to use simple stories to address a higher meaning or evoke particular emotions but to me these altogether too common characters fell short. Sarah Lemon is a less than ordinary teenage girl struggling with her crush on one of the most popular guys in school. Sound familiar? Of course it does, that is one of the most common narratives in every high school English essay assignment. Victor Delamonte is the embodiment of ‘rags to riches’ ‘American Dream’ success story. An extremely wealthy business man from a poor and difficult upbringing who went on to build an empire and has more money than he can count. Also sound familiar? Yup. I’m sorry to say Albom lost me more and more as I followed the lives of his characters. On a good day I have a hard time with clichés so, naturally, I was heavily disappointed to read one after another in this book. And it is so unfortunate too! The tale of Father Time himself is fresh and heartbreaking and it is such a shame it was perpetually interrupted by the moans and groans of teenage angst or corporate greed.

Once I begin a book I must finish it, because I will always give the author the benefit of the doubt and respect/judge their work as a whole. Sadly, I feel cheated. The narratives of both characters went exactly as I predicted from, genuinely, their introductory paragraphs. When I say Father Time’s story is heartbreaking, it is because in comparison to the other two it was the only storyline that kept this horribly over worked novel in motion. The images and motifs of time throughout Father Time’s life are, without question, beautiful. And there are elements of what I love about Mitch Albom stamped throughout. His power to conjure a magical moments in the mind with only a few sentences never ceases to amaze. However this can only truly be said for one third of this novel. That’s not fair is it? I don’t want to have to plough through predictable over used stories for only a paragraph or too of the good one.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not appreciate a book that distracts from the text and makes me think more of the writer and what he was thinking as he wrote it. I don’t know if it was author, publisher or editor that decided on the format of this piece but it did exactly that. Distracted. The superfluous use of bold sentences was sickening. I hate when the text and not the words are screaming for attention. With every turn of the page I felt myself silently wishing for it to stop. I don’t want to read a book that has so many sentences in bold, practically telling me ‘THIS IS IMPORTANT’. This technique is derivative; if you are trying to make a deep and meaningful point by using bold font than you’ve already pulled the reader out of the story because they are now thinking “Oooh why is this in bold” thus losing the meaning you’re trying to elicit. I would rather derive my own meaning from the language itself and if it is well written you shouldn’t have to categorise the ‘meaningful’ pieces from the rest. In that case, you are demeaning the rest of the text that is not in bold.

This novel has me now begging the question; am I a fan of Mitch Albom or is my naive teenage self the fan? I have tried to research who Albom’s demographic is but all I can find is that it is vast and huge. Perhaps, it is too general for me or something. Perhaps, in his effort to create a timeless piece about time he has really just produced generic storylines with the intent of furthering his commercial success.

However, as much as this novel disappoints, I does not and will not affect my opinion of Tuesdays With Morrie or The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It is because of them and NOT The Time Keeper that I will continue to read Albom’s body of work. They will forever be ingrained in my mind for the observations and universal truths that not only altered my perception as a boy but I have taken into adulthood too.

For that, thank you Mitch Albom. Although, It’s a pity this one didn’t meet any of my high expectations.

Have you read The Time Keeper? What did YOU think? Do you agree with my ramblings?

Please let me know through email, or in the comments below, your thoughts on any of Albom’s work or what you think of my ramblings above.

Thank you, as always, for giving me your time. See what I’ve done there? 

Happy reading!