My mom found this in the Superstore (I think) and, knowing how I love a good paperback read (hardcover is so difficult to hold with one hand), she let me plow through it while she worked on her current book-club selection. So I plowed. The summary on the back describes the tale as ‘moving between father and daughter, the present and the past,’ which I read with some trepidation. Having just finished ‘Eyeless in Gaza,‘ which hops all over the chronological map, I’m leery of never knowing what sort of madness the characters have been up to recently. Call me staid, but I like stories to begin at the beginning, and when they get to the end, to stop (except that ‘Memento‘ was quite good).
ANYways, ‘The Time in Between’ does no such spasmodic hopping. It uses flashback, true, but no more so than called for. The story is reasonably engaging, but I feel like the big secret is given away in the middle of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers), depriving the remainder of its mystery and intrigue. My mother asked me, as I was nearing the end, how it was. I told her that unless some exciting plot twist rang my bell in the last five pages, I was going to feel as though the second half of the book could have been easily dispensed with. No bell was rung.
Also, I like all of my characters to serve purposes. I know that in life, this does not happen, and that people with better tastes in literature will disagree with me for many well-founded reasons, but if someone figures largely in a novel, I WANT TO KNOW WHY THEY’RE THERE! Books are not life, and that is why I read them. Books would be boring if they filled in all the mundane details, unless they could do it as winsomely as Mark Haddon’s Christopher does. What I guess I’m trying to say is that I don’t want people showing up in my story, saying ‘Hey, I’m interesting. Don’t you wonder what I’m going to do to your protagonist? Something impactful, I’ll bet. Wait, no. I have this thing I have to do over here that has nothing to do with your book, and isn’t mentioned, and can only be assumed because I’ll never show up between the pages again.’
To it’s credit, the novel was well-written and of a reasonable length. It’s set in Vietnam, and exotic backdrops always bribe me for a favorable reaction. Like I said, the story is interesting, if not positively gripping, and the book is not a waste of your time. Just don’t expect any new developments after you figure out that thing in the middle.