I’d like to introduce guest blogger Will Entrekin, a writer I became a fan of after reading his collection of short stories and nonfiction pieces modestly entitled Entrekin. (Just kidding, Will.) It is hard to believe that was almost three years ago, but I see that my review of that collection goes all the way back to September 2008. Will mentioned at the end of Entrekin that he was working on a time travel novel and, because I do love my time travel stories, I’m happy to see that Will is releasing that novel, The Prodigal Hour, on July 1.
Thanks to my iPad, I’m reading The Prodigal Hour while I’m here in Kentucky, and I hope to post a review in the next few days. But first, here’s Will to tell you about the new book and his theory about why most of us find the concept of time travel so appealing:
Given that I know Sam is a big fan of country, bluegrass, and blues (and other music for uplifting gormandizers, as Hilly Kristal would elaborate), I thought I would begin by alluding to the old joke that if you play a country music song backward, rather than finding the coded Satanic messages of heavy metal, you get your wife back, your house back, your truck back, and your dog back. I think somewhere in the sentiment behind that joke is the truism that is the heart of my upcoming time-travel novel The Prodigal Hour.
When the story opens on Halloween 2001, Chance Sowin is in the sort of situation that might inspire a country music song except for the fact that Chance was living in Manhattan, which is not exactly the sort of town that inspires twang. On the morning of September 11th, when his commute to his World Trade Center law office was cut short, his life fell apart. He appreciates that he’s better off than a lot of other people he knew–some of whom perished in the terrorist attacks–but that knowledge doesn’t change his realization that if he wants his life to change and to become better, it’s time for him to take control of it himself. He temps for a few more weeks after the attack, but when his father, Dennis–a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey–invites Chance to move back home, Chance accepts.
On the day he moves back home, however, he interrupts a burglary during which his father is shot and killed, and the murder investigation only becomes more complicated and suspicious when the federal government shows up and starts making allegations: that Dennis was conducting illicit research, that he was keeping secrets, and that he was working with al Qaeda.
What Chance learns is that his father discovered a way to time travel.
I think one of the reasons we, as a culture, are fascinated by time travel is similar to the truism at the heart of a country music song. We remember “the good ole days,” even though things like civil rights and universal suffrage are relatively new ideas. Hindsight is not only 20/20 but also most often colored by rose-tinted lenses, and the past is often a time we idealize. We live not so much with regrets but rather “What ifs”; what if I’d married her? What if I’d never left? What if I hadn’t quit that job? What if I hadn’t turned down that transfer? What if I’d just told her how I felt?
Time travel is one way we vicariously answer those questions, because ultimately it comes down to a simple one: if you could do it all over again, what would you do? So much of our lives can come down to decisions we have no choice but to make in the blink of an eye, without any time to either think or prepare. So many tragedies leave us with “If onlys”; if only she hadn’t taken that train. If only he’d gone to work that day.
It’s part of our nature to replay our lives. To consider what we might say given just one more moment with a loved one, what we might do given just one more chance at a difficult time. To not only regret that kiss, but wonder how our lives would be different if only we could take it back. There’s an element of time travel in the idea of playing a country song backward to get your wife back, in the idea of just wanting things to go back to the way they were before. Of course they never can, but that doesn’t stop many of us from wishing it might be so.
The Prodigal Hour will be available for purchase on July 1st via Amazon. In the meantime, you can find some of my other work–including a novel, a collection, a few short stories, and an essay–on my Amazon author page here: http://www.amazon.com/Will-Entrekin/e/B004JPDYBY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1