My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Thank you to Edelweiss, the Penguin Publishing Group – Viking, and Matt Haig for the privilege of previewing this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book has a lot of buzz. It has a Goodreads average rating of 4.13 on 5,767 ratings, and it’s going to be made into a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch!
Tom Hazard has a secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but because of a rare condition called anageria, he’s been alive since 1581. Tom has met a lot of famous people like Shakespeare, F. Scott & Ella Fitzgerald, experienced major historical events firsthand, and witnessed many inventions become real. He just wants an ordinary life, but because of his secret, he must move every 8 years and reinvent himself.
It is now 2017 and Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher – the perfect job for someone like him who has witnessed history first hand.
Tom has lived in London before, and returning to the city is bittersweet for him because it holds many memories of love, laughter, friendship, heartache, pain, anguish, and grief.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig is a book about change, and a powerful story about life, living, and learning.
Would you want a lifespan as long as 500 years, and maybe even longer? Imagine never being able to get close to anyone, never being able to tell anyone about your secrets, and then every eight years you have to assume a new identity, relocate to a completely new area. You have to start all over again and again and again. What quality of life do you have if you can’t be your true self, can’t share things with other people, and can’t experience love and close relationships?
This is the life that Tom Hazard is “living”. But is that really living? He goes through life with very little joy, love, companionship or close relationships. And he’s SO.DAMN.OLD. What a way to go through life, especially when yours is 6-7 times longer than the average person – it’s more like enduring and suffering. Tom’s inability to change has him stuck and unsatisfied.
Life is about change; it has ups and downs, but change is one of the few constants of life. Change is often a complex and difficult process, and it is inevitable. Managing change on the personal level requires new thinking. There are five outcomes an individual must achieve for change to be successful: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement – or ADKAR, which is a change management model created by a company called Prosci. Tom can really use some change management techniques to cope with his emotional struggles.
The book makes you think about your own life, who you love, choices, and the actions that you take because of it.
“Can a life without love still be worth living?”
The story goes back and forth in time. The author transported me into the world of this book through Tom’s eyes. I witnessed history through Tom. I saw the mistakes that people make, over and over again regardless of the time period. Same story, different time.
The characters are well developed, especially Tom, and the author gave plenty of backstory for the reader to understand him fully, including vivid descriptions on the wide range of feelings about his condition – especially the sadness, loneliness, heartache, pain, guilt and torment that Tom feels. However, he doesn’t seem to experience much joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, pride, joy, gratitude, hope, or inspiration. He goes through his life “getting by” emotionally, with his mind stuck in the past, recalling previous events over and over. He never makes peace with himself over these traumatic events. He seems to be forever in mourning about the death of his mother and his beloved wife Rose. What kind of life is that, especially if the person’s 436 years old?
This book reminds you that life is precious. Love the people around you, because you never know what can happen. Life can change in an instant, and life as you know it might become a distant memory.
“One makes mistakes; that is life. But it is never a mistake to have loved.” – Romain Rolland
This is my first experience with Matt Haig’s writing and I loved it. His writing is very beautiful, full of feeling, and distinctive. His voice was consistent throughout the book, and there were many quotes that stood out.
The book was easy to read and un-put-downable. I binge read it over a few days. It made me think about so many things, specifically Tom’s anageria and how it shapes his life, his perspective, and his relationships. The story reminds me of the movie The Age of Adeline, starring Blake Lively, where she ages very, very slowly and is “stuck” at age 29.
This book will stay in my mind for a long time and I definitely recommend it. I think this quote sums up the story’s theme: