I’m not saying that Matt Haig’s HOW TO STOP TIME is guilty of false advertising, exactly. But if you were hoping for an instruction manual for pressing a giant cosmic pause button, this is probably not the book for you. (To be fair, we’re shelving it in the fiction section. It’s not like you weren’t warned.)
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a wry, sweet, imaginative and clever novel – one that asks big questions while showing us the joys of an “ordinary” life, HOW TO STOP TIME fits the bill.
Tom Hazard looks 41, but he’s actually been alive for centuries, thanks to a genetic condition that slows his aging to near-undetectable rates. (At 436 years old, his two grey hairs have appeared nearly forty years apart.) As a member of the secretive, occasionally murderous Albatross Society, he moves every decade so that his strange nature isn’t discovered as he hunts for a mysterious woman from his past.
Even though he’s met Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom’s tired of eternity. He wants an ordinary life, so he takes a position as a history teacher at a London high school, and promptly falls for the French teacher, despite the Albatross Society’s first rule: never fall in love. As Tom adjusts to his new life, he’s haunted by memories of his previous ones. In order to fully live in the moment, to be fully human, he has to come to terms with his past – all the tragedies, triumphs, and choices that have made him who he is.
HOW TO STOP TIME manages a tricky balancing act, weaving together big ideas like humanity and mortality with an appealing cast and dry wit, all while moving back and forth through Tom’s history. It’s a quick, warm-hearted read that will appeal to fans of The Rosie Project and Landline. And while it won’t teach you how to press the pause button on the universe, it will help you appreciate the everyday moments of your life.