I came here to write a review of another book I recently finished, but soon realized that I never completed my round of reviews from my last library trip. My mother was right: I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached.
Ah well. Better late than never, right?
I alluded to this book in my review of Alan Lightman’s Ghost: A Novel. Even though my initial excitement regarding Lightman diminished slightly from Einstein’s Dreams to Ghost, I was still enamored enough of his style and the way his mind processed ideas that I wanted to read more. Reunion was the only other Lightman novel in stock at the local library, so I quickly added it to my stack.
Yet again, I find myself visiting the concept/complaint of the “well-worn trope.” There is no new thing under the sun and certain stories have been and will continue to be retold until the end of existence itself. One of these stories is that of time travel, of returning to a place, a person, a moment in our pasts and…what? Changing it? Reliving it? Erasing it? Cherishing it?
In Reunion, Lightman takes his protagonist—Charles, a divorced literature professor with a “comfortable” but unremarkable life—to his 30th college reunion. From this setting, Charles stumbles backward through the spiral of time, to a point near the end of his college days that obviously still held depth and meaning and passion for him.
This is a “lost love” story, replete with regret and the remnants of a once unquenchable fire, revealed through what I continue to love most about Lightman: his clean, graceful prose. Is it a successful translation of this particular trope? Yes, for the most part. Lightman is a clever author and his perspectives are oftentimes just different enough to distinguish his take from the myriad others available to readers.
However, there persists that niggling notion that this is a story that we of the science fiction-minded have visited so many times that it must be an extraordinary take to make a proper impact upon us. Is this such a take? It is beautiful. It is engaging. It is not wildly original. It’s a comfortable visit with an eloquent and engaging friend. Their story is familiar, but you still enjoy hearing it told in their delightful way.
Final Verdict: My third visit with Lightman has convinced me that he is a steady storyteller of exceptional compositional skill. Were this a less-traveled trope, I might desire to add this to my library. However, I don’t feel a burning need to revisit Reunion any time soon. Perhaps this will change…in 30 years or so 😉