The Psychology of Time Travel
The Psychology of Time Travel completely renewed the subject of time travel for me. Having read a couple of books in this sub-science fiction genre before, it was refreshing that the focus was not on the hypothetical mechanics of time travel, but instead was on the impact it might have on the people who time travel.
Debut author Kate Mascarenhas uses her background in psychology to create a beautiful, thought-provoking story set in an altered reality. And wow did she make me think. The discussion of the mental health of each traveler, combined with the superb mystery of this story were refreshing and fascinating. I was riveted.
We begin in 1967 skipping through almost 100 years of time, and culminating in 2019. Four trailblazing women – Margaret, Bee, Grace and Lucille – have a breakthrough in 1967, creating the very first time-machine. After some dissension among the scientists, Bee is removed from the team. Margaret goes on to create an empire – an imposing exclusive time travel business. We skip to 2017 where Bee’s granddaughter, Ruby, wonders what life would be like if her grandmother had remained one of the pioneers. No one talks about it. Until a note from the future arrives stating a woman connected to Ruby will die. And the mystery begins.
Like a detective, I picked my way through the story and unknowingly, Mascarenhas’ thesis on what makes life important. Her ideas wove their way into my subconscious. After each reading session I found myself musing on questions like, if someone told me part of my future, would I continue that path knowing it would happen? Would my mind cope knowing the future? Would certain truths desensitize me from death, violence, and cruelty? Would I become accustomed to the death of my loved ones if I knew I could go back and see them again? What would this do to my relationships? What would this do to me? I was rather surprised to find myself dipping into deep philosophical thoughts while reading a sci-fi, mystery.
The Psychology of Time Travel is told via an intricately complex set of characters in the time they are currently residing in. While sometimes I found the skipping back and forth between time periods confusing, every slip in time was incredibly important in tying everything together. As the time periods move closer to the present day, the gaps between them shorten and eventually I realized who the central characters really were. Each one gave me the feels. I wanted to hug Bee and slap Margaret. I was proud of Odette and Siobhan. I was frustrated with Angharad and Ginger. I wanted to high five Elspeth and Lucille. I fell in love with Grace and Ruby.
I was completely unprepared for how much I fell in love with these characters. They embodied the parts of me I like and dislike. They felt flawed and complex. I could see myself and my friends taking the same actions, making similar choices, and learning in similar ways. This made them a part of my world because they felt so real.
It’s surprising that while I spent an inordinate amount of time questioning how the mind works in The Psychology of Time Travel, it took me awhile to notice the hints at contemporary injustice posed throughout the story. Mascarenhas touches on skin color and race, the changing climate of women in positions of power, and the stigma towards those with mental health issues. Each of these topics hit a chord with me personally. Each aspect is a part of my identity. I am biracial, I have worked in varying industries where women have been both dismissed and celebrated, and I am managing extreme anxiety.
The truth is, time is precious. We are always looking for ways to fit more in. Yet we all have the same fate.
Regardless if I was able to time travel or not, it wouldn’t give me more time. So, I better start using it more wisely.