Mar 17, 2009: “Timely Persuasion” is the story of a time-traveller figuring out how to use his new-found powers in order to save his sister. After his initial fumbling attempts to determine how his “blinking” works, he becomes determined to change his sister’s past. Things become complicated when he begins meeting other versions of himself.
The novel is written like a journal, so much of the text is the narrator’s inner monologue. Some of the parts have no dialog at all, just the narrator telling his history, his philosophies and his opinions.
The first chapter starts almost a year after the sister’s death, which the narrator blames on her husband. The family is planning a memorial service, which he doesn’t want to deal with. He’s unemployed and spends most of his time drinking, bowling, getting high, and playing the lottery. One night, he meets an old man who claims to be from the future. After the old man injects him with something, he discovers he can go back in time. After several attempts he begins to get some control over his destination. Things get a bit confusing from here as he meets other versions of himself.
After reading 13 chapters, about half of the book, the only real character is still the narrator. The other characters are only seen through his eyes or through short conversations and they come across as flat. He describes his sister as if she was a saint and her husband as scum, but we don’t see enough of either of them in action to know if his opinions are anywhere close to accurate.
The narrator is a well-written, almost quirky character. He had a career as a music critic until he got disenchanted with the new music. He tends to think and talk in lyrics. To me, he came across as pretty self-absorbed. An overly protective brother, he told his sister that none of her boyfriends were good enough for her. When she ignores his “advice” against marrying Nelson, he doesn’t go to the wedding and he never speaks to her again. He had originally planned to stand up and object on the day of the wedding, thinking this would “bring her to her senses”. I found myself shaking my head while I read his plans for “fixing things”. The story made me cringe and want to walk away from what seemed like a train wreck waiting to happen.
The writing itself is solid enough, if you like character-driven stories that occur almost entirely in the narrator’s head. The pace is a bit slow, with a lot of philosophical musings and cultural references. Whether or not you will enjoy this story will pretty much depend on whether or not you find the narrator interesting.
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