Book Review: The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom

When I first read the title of the book — The Timekeeper — and then the blurb on the back cover — “Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralysing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.“ — several questions raced through my mind:

What if there were no clocks in the world? What if you didn’t know what time of the day it is or going to be? How different would the world have been? Would we have lived our lives any differently?

So when I picked up the book, I was curious to find out if Mitch Albom answers any of those questions in his latest fiction novel.

But I soon realised that that was hardly the intention and the inspirational author just wanted to do what he does best in most of his novels — teach his readers the ‘meaning of life’. This time, Albom chooses an unusually interesting protagonist named Dor — the inventor of the world’s first clock — to give a very different meaning to the expressions ‘value of time’ or ‘make the most of your time’.

In his classic style, the novel shuffles between two timelines — the past and the present — with three story tracks running parallel to one another. One is the story of Dor, the man who measured time for the first time on the earth, set in a centuries old era, and the other two are the tales of two modern-day individuals (a teenage girl and an old, wealthy businessman) who’re used to measuring time as the most natural process of their lives.

As the story unfolds, Albom paves the way for a wonderful but trite perspective on time, when Dor and the two modern earthlings meet and Dor teaches them the meaning of time, a lesson he learnt after being banished to a cave for centuries and forced to understand the consequences of the phenomenon he’d set in motion by counting time. After reading the book, you’re forced to question the relevance of man’s obsession with measuring every second of the day, every day of the month.

And yet, the book fails to leave an impression because of its lack of originality. The obvious reference to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel is unappealing. And at one point, Dor literally assumes the role of Charles’ Dickens The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, to show his pupils their future to help them better understand their time on earth!

However, Albom’s everyday modern-day characters of the young girl and the businessmen are very easy to relate to, and that works wonders if you want to spread life’s philosophies among your readers. In fact, kudos to the author for being a very relevant writer in these busy times and I wish that more and more people would read and apply some of the lessons he leaves in his books.

All in all, the novel is thought provoking though some of the lessons learnt on the way, for instance “It is never too late” and spending more time to be with the people you love, are too reminiscent of Morrie’s aphorisms from Albom’s debut novel Tuesdays with Morrie. The Timekeeper is inspiring, as long as you haven’t read any of his others. I recommend this book only if you wish to find out the answer to a certain question posed in the book — “Why did God limit man’s days on the earth?”

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