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An Ocean of Minutes
Cover of An Ocean of Minutes
An Ocean of Minutes
Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller PrizeAn unforgettable love story of two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart, for readers ofStation Eleven.America is in the grip of a deadly...
Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller PrizeAn unforgettable love story of two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart, for readers ofStation Eleven.America is in the grip of a deadly...
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  • Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize
    An unforgettable love story of two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart, for readers ofStation Eleven.

    America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan. Time travel has been invented; if she signs up for a one-way trip into the future to work as a bonded labourer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.
    But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a terrifying new world to find Frank, to discover if he is alive, and to see if their love has endured.
    An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous, devastating novel about courage, yearning, the cost of holding onto the past—and the price of letting it go.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book People wishing to time travel go to Houston Interconti­nental Airport. At the orientation, the staff tell them that time travel is just like air travel, you even go to the same facility. People used to be apprehensive about airline travel too. But when you arrive at the airport, it is not the same at all. Before you can get within a mile of the terminals, you reach a bus stop moored at the edge of a vast concrete flat, where you must leave your vehicle and ascend a snaking trolley, like the ones they have at the zoo.
    A quarantine taxi makes its way to that lone bus stop, the airport appearing through a million chain-link diamonds. The driver is encased in an oval of hermetically sealed Plexiglas. In the back seat, Frank is wearing a yellow hazmat suit. The colour marks him as infected.
    Now is the time for last words, but Polly's got nothing. Frank keeps nodding off and then snapping awake, stiff-spined with terror, until he can locate her beside him. "We can still go back!" He has been saying this for days. Even in his sleep he carries on this argument, and when he opens his eyes, he moves seamlessly from a dream fight to a waking one. Already his voice is far off, sealed away inside his suit.
    She pulls his forehead to her cheek, but his mask stops her short. They can only get within three inches of each other. The suit rubs against the vinyl car seat and makes a funny, crude noise, but they don't laugh. Polly would like to breathe in the smell of Frank's skin one last time, a smell like salt cut with something sweet, like when it rains in the city. But all she gets is the dry smell of plastic.
    The news outlets went down weeks ago, but that didn't stop the blitz of ads for the Rebuild America Time Travel Initiative: billboards painted on buildings, posters wheat-pasted over empty storefronts, unused mailboxes stuffed with mailers. there is no flu in 2002 and travel to the future and rebuild america and no skills necessary! training provided!
    At first the ads were like a joke, gallows humour for people who were stranded once the credit companies went down and the state borders were closed to stop the flu's spread, people like Polly and Frank, who got trapped in Texas by accident. Later, the ads made Frank angry. He would tear the pamphlets from the mailboxes and throw them on the ground, muttering about opportunism. "You know they don't market this to the rich," he'd say, and then an hour later, he'd say it again.
    They stayed indoors except for the one day a week when they travelled to the grocery store, which had been commandeered by five army reservists who doled out freeze-dried goods to ragged shoppers. The reservists had taken it upon themselves to impose equal access to the food supply, partly out of good­ness and partly out of the universal desperation for something to do. One day, the glass doors were locked. A handwritten sign said to go around the back. The soldiers were having a party. With their rifles still strapped on, they were handing out canned cocktail wieners, one per person, on candy-striped paper dessert plates that looked forlorn in their huge hands. Ted, the youngest, a boy from Kansas who had already lost his hair, was leaving for a job in the future. He was going to be an independent energy contractor. There was another sign, bigger and in the same writing, on the back wall: 2000 here we come! It was a rare, happy thing, the soldiers and the shoppers in misfit clothes, standing around and smiling at each other and nibbling on withered cocktail sausages. But just that morning, the phone had worked for five minutes and they got a call through to Frank's brothers, only to be told it had been weeks since the...

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 28, 2018
    Lim’s stellar follow-up to 2007’s The Same Woman concerns Polly Nader, who signs an agreement to travel through time from 1981 to 1993 to save her boyfriend. During a road trip in 1981, Buffalo residents Polly and Frank are stuck in Texas as state borders are closed to prevent a virulent strain of flu from spreading. Due to time-travel limitations, doctors are unable to travel back far enough to prevent the pandemic’s onset, but people are being recruited by the company TimeRaiser to help rebuild the future. After Frank is infected by the virus, the two decide to separate; Polly strikes a 32-month deal to work for TimeRaiser and plans to reunite with Frank upon arrival. Bonded workers spend their time doing jobs like riding exercise bikes for hours in order to power resorts and are disparagingly referred to as journeymen in a future where the country has been divided into the United States and America. Polly is in the latter (composed mainly of resorts for the wealthy), but Buffalo—where Polly assumes Frank is—is in the former. Polly’s lowly status and lack of funds keep her from knowing if Frank is even alive, and she isn’t allowed to leave America for the United States until her contract is up. She endures betrayals and despair as she tries to break free of her servitude and make the potentially hopeless journey to find Frank. Lim’s enthralling novel succeeds on every level: as a love story, an imaginative thriller, and a dystopian narrative. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners.

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    Penguin Canada
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