How to Stop Time was well worth the wait

I have been looking forward to this book for months.

I’ve thought that Matt Haig is a brilliant writer since I picked up his book The Humans in a charity shop a year or so ago. It was so touching. I loved it and I immediately went out looking for more of his work.

Between A Boy Called Christmas and Reasons to Stay Alive, I was impressed with Haig’s versatility. Whether he’s writing stories for children or adults or explorations of mental health, he injects his writing with a real sense of empathy and a raw humanity. It’s quite lovely. He’s very introspetive and thoughtful and he captures the human condition very sweetly.

I expected as much from How to Stop Time, and was not disappointed.

The book tells the tale of a man who has lived for over four hundred years already and is coming to terms with the knowledge that the people he has loved are all dead and that he will likely live many lifetimes longer than anyone else he gets attached to. He isolates himself and, although he has the opportunity to mingle with some of history’s most incredible personalities, he resists them, busy wallowing in his loneliness, afraid of being hurt again.

It’s not the most original premise in the world – humans have been obsessed with immortality for about as long as they’ve existed – but the story has Haig’s unique touch. It’s about heartache and fear and how easily you could throw away centuries if you let negativity dominate your life.

Except we don’t have centuries to learn that.

Like every book I’ve read of Haig’s so far, I found this one really easy to read. I easily got lost in it every time I picked it up and was disappointed when it was over.

At this point, I’m starting to get concerned that I’m fangirling a bit much. But I don’t feel like I need to like Matt Haig, but his work just so consistently well written that I consistently do like him.

I really do like how closely he explores the human condition in all his work and he does that as intensely as ever in How to Stop Time.

If I would change anything about it, I’d like to spend some more time in the third act. In the scene where Tom finally comes face to face with his daughter after searching for her for millennia, things happen very quickly. I feel like it would have been exciting to ramp up the tension and add a little more risk there, have Marion resist him for longer and, when they finally reunite, have Hendrich pose more of a threat to their relationship.

But I understand why that wasn’t the case. Haig isn’t writing an action-packed adventure story. He’s writing an introspective story about the emotional weight of reality.

And it’s a good one.

I loved that, ultimately, Tom’s problems are solved by going after what he wants most even if it won’t be easy, being honest with the people he cares about and allowing himself to be vulnerable. I think that those lessons are rarely made so clear in fiction and I love that Haig places so much value on them.

When I read Reasons to Stay Alive, I decided that I thought that Matt Haig was one of the most important writers working today. With How to Stop Time, my opinion has not changed.


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