How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

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“That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days – some years – some decades – are empty. There is nothing to them. It’s just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.”

Tom Hazard may look to be in his forties, however he has actually been alive for centuries, the 1500’s to be more precise. As a result of a rare condition that slows down the aging process, Tom has lived through history, from performing with Shakespeare to having cocktails with F. Scott Fitzgerald. But life has also been one of challenges, pain, love, loss, and the desire for a normal life. Tom did fall in love and have a normal life for a period of time, however his unchanging appearance brought on unwanted attention, and he had to leave it all behind. Eventually he returns to London, the city that holds all his most treasured and painful memories, and he feels the possibility of a normal life once again. However, all of this is under the watchful eye of the Albatross Society, and its shadowy leader, Hendrich, who protect people like Tom through some questionable ways. And their main rule is to never fall in love.

“The longer you live, the harder it becomes. To grab them. Each little moment as it arrives. To be living in something other than the past or the future. To be actually here.
Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live?”

How to Stop Time is an adventure through time, as we travel back and forth from the present moment to Tom’s different lives throughout history. It examines what it means to truly live through the struggles of loss, loneliness, and love. I found this to be a very creative novel filled with interesting characters and a thoughtful storyline. It does feel slow at times, and there may be one too many time jumps as I never felt truly engaged with any one period. Matt Haig fast became one of my favourite authors with his novel, The Humans, and his memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive. He has an ability to capture and portray the complexity of the human experience in a way that speaks to the soul and makes you think. That is evident in How to Stop Time. While it is not my favourite of his novels,  it is definitely worth a read.

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