Magical realism book review: Time After Time

A magical love story, inspired by the legend of a woman who vanished from Grand Central Terminal, sweeps readers from the 1920s to World War II and beyond.

I bought Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald because it was listed on Amazon under Time Travel Romance. I’d say Amazon should invent a new category: Magical Realism Romance. This captivating love story, set in a meticulously detailed historic Grand Central Station, itself an otherworldly but actual setting, is in a class by itself. Nora and Joe live two decades apart. Following a train accident, Nora exists in a liminal realm, but they meet through a seasonal moment when dawn light strikes the station’s windows in the same way each year.
You don’t feel inclined to question the magical realism device because the characters are so fully alive. Watching them fall in love over the course of the story and figure out ways to inhabit their time-bounded meeting place is compelling and moving. Their love shimmers with the danger of Nora’s being unable to stay with Joe i his time and makes their time together poignant.

What is magical realism fiction? Read my posts here, and in this article (with a book list) on Hadley Mendelsohn’s My Domaine. This pithy definition of magical realism fiction seems just right to me: “Weaving elements of magic and fantasy into a realm that’s very much rooted in what we know to be real.”

Beautifully written fiction itself can become time travel, as this novel does. As a connoisseur of marvelous settings, I was fascinated by the historical and lovingly captured setting of New York City’s Grand Central Station. I once saw a documentary about its construction, an amazing feat like those of other grand public works in America. The author picked this as a perfectly magical setting. Bringing the characters to actually live within its many wonderful spaces and take advantage of its features, she creates a full and marvelous world.

The story asks a question similar to my magical realism, time travel novel The Renaissance Club: Would you give up everything, even the time in which you live, to be with your soul mate? A bittersweet ending truly satisfies, and though not the romance novel formula Happy-Ever-After, it’s uplifting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Renaissance Club: “Enchanting, rich and romantic.”