It’s 1981 and Frank and Polly’s love story is just starting. In the euphoria of pre-wedding bliss, the couple decides to go for a weekend getaway to New Orleans. Unfortunately, a wrong turn leads them to Texas, but they take this in their stride and make the most of it. Even the country-wide flu epidemic can’t dampen their spirits. However, when Frank becomes ill and tests positive for the viral disease, they find themselves quarantined in a strange city with their only hope an immensely expensive treatment that neither young lover can afford.
In a desperate attempt to save Frank, Polly considers her only option; become an employee of TimeRaiser, a company that offers the medical benefits that will save Frank, and her love with him. The position requires Polly to travel to the future and use her unique skillset in a new job. When she wakes, 12 years will have past, but this is a sacrifice she is willing to make given the alternative being Frank’s death. Despite their plans in place to find each other and continue with their lives as before, Polly awakes five years later than expected in a new, strange world in which her only anchor is Frank. She just needs to find him.
An Ocean of Minutes is a pleasantly unusual romance. Between scenes of heart-breaking beauty and emotional turmoil, the narrative includes fantastical feats such as time travel and a slowly invading dystopian landscape, revealed inches at a time. In a world that was ravaged by disease and large-scale death, the notion of romance seems a luxury to everyone but Polly. She is an intruder into a disorganized system, forced to submit to its rules and stuttering improvement. While 18 years passed slowly and painfully for those around her, Polly was thrust immediately into a different era, where everything is unrecognizable save her love for Frank, and her determination to be reunited with him. As far as stories of lost loves as concerned, Thea Lim has effectively rewritten the genre, and made her narrative as tense as it is beautiful. In the blink of an eye and passage of nearly two decades, Polly is transformed from a woman in love to a woman who is lost and fighting the world to regain her place in it.
This book is lovely, refreshing, moving and incredibly tense. I can guarantee tears, nail biting, sorrow and joy, all in a single sitting. It speaks to Lim’s power as a story teller and skillful craft that one story could encompass so many emotions, and so much possibility. While I highly recommend this book, I feel I should give all readers fair warning; your heart is about to be simultaneously torn asunder and mended – prepare for an emotional journey.
An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim is published by Quercus, a Hachette Books company, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.