An Ocean of Minutes: Lit Circle Round 5

Here are the students’ literature circle materials for this week’s book club meeting on Thea Lim’s novel An Ocean of Minutes (pp. 198-249). The first round is available here, the second round here, the third round here, and the fourth round here.

Summarizer: Lauren Sternenberg

The section opens with Norberto and Polly prepping for their wedding. She tries on many of Marta—Norberto’s previous girlfriend—and they pose for pictures to solidify the lie. Overall, Polly does her best to fabricate a magic between them for the photos, but it falls flat.

Next, there’s a slight montage of Polly becoming used to travelling to Norberto’s and work, in general, just settling in. She gets to know him a bit better, finding out his family is from El Paso, then moved to Albuquerque where he was separated from his family. Norberto joins the corps to try and find them, but it failed, and he moved to Alabama to drive for the Great South Bus Lines. After, he met Marta and they walked to San Antonio to get the house he’s in now. He’s proud of his hand-made house and record collection, where the one that was Marta’s favorite is turned around.

Norberto suggests they walk on the beach to get used to each other. They hold hands, where Polly feels trapped, until she find’s he was waiting to let go after 120 seconds. He says they should recreate a special moment, which they’ll do the day after. He has her stand in the surf until she dreams of home and her mother.

They get on the boat and get the details of their marriage story right, where Polly is given Marta’s mother’s ring. She realizes it seems like she’s betrayed Frank in marrying Norberto, but she can’t turn back.

The next day, they go to get married. They’re both stricken because this isn’t how they imagined getting married, and when they have the choice to kiss each other, they don’t. On the boat ride home, she tries to get Norberto to see the beauty that Marta saw in the coast, but he misses it.

In April of 1980, Polly is struck by Frank’s collection of items, and she asks him about what he’d do with all their mementos if she were to leave him. He says he’ll throw them away. The evening is heavy between them afterwards, and they agree to take a weekend trip to help. Sadly, the trip has been planned to the minute by Frank, and Polly feels suffocated. They argue about going on the bus tour, then she tells him they have all the time in the world, and he has nothing to be afraid of. He receives it badly and seems defeated.

His reaction reminds her of when Polly’s mother died and she went to the woods instead of school, and how when Donna caught her, she cried until Donna asked what was wrong, and she was afraid of being the only person to remember her mother. Her memories would keep her mother safe. She wanted to tell Frank that, but she can’t.

They go on the bus and sit in silence, where them taking a picture for his grandpa lightens the mood. It tanks a minute later because of the tourists all around them, and she attacks Frank for being so calm. He walks back to his car, defeated, which prompts Polly to buy plastic cherry blossoms for him. She apologizes. He keeps those flowers in the car.

Now, in regular time, Polly realizes Norberto hasn’t come home. She goes looking for him back at Moody Plaza, where he calls her a moron in front of other O-1’s. He smells like alcohol. When they return home, she yells at him about being secretive, where he brings up that they’re not really married. Polly rips his magazines in response.

Norberto tells her the fixer he hired took all his money and photos, and he’s desperate for any leverage. He starts to advance on her, but she refuses. When he doesn’t stop, she smashes him in the head with a lamp and runs off into the rain.

Polly runs back to the women of 4A1, where she’s taken in again by Cookie, who’s excited because her son is set to see her. They were kicked out of the complex from before. Polly resumed tile work and hoped she didn’t kill Norberto. She sees him at work but isn’t sure if it’s real.

On the night Cookie’s son is set to show, he comes much later than expected. Him and Cookie have a sweet and short reunion.

Cookie invites Polly to live with her and her son, and she plans to go, until her foreman calls her to go to the Head Office.

Once there, she’s worried she’ll be arrested for Norberto’s murder—even though she’s not sure he’s dead—and she fills out lots of paperwork and waits until she realizes she’s not a suspect. Instead, she finds out Norberto’s paid off her bond and got her a boat ticket to Buffalo, Frank’s last known location.

Polly gives Cookie her wedding ring as thanks and she heads to the terminal. She sees Norberto there and worries about his financial situation, but she can’t look at him. He says he just had to do the right thing. When she tells him she thought she killed him, he pleads with her to get on the boat.

Polly gives him Frank’s baseball cards. Norberto says he won’t forget her. When she boards the train, she looks back expecting to see something familiar. There is nothing.

Discussion Director: Eva Trakhtman

  1. Why do you think that Norberto was so reluctant to talk about his past and his relationship with Marta if this reluctance to speak could potentially damage the charade they’re putting on?
  2. In the flashback, when Polly and Frank went on their Cherry-blossom road trip, the two got into an argument about Polly seemingly approaching the relationship too nonchalantly, and Frank approaching it too seriously. How do you think the world of 1998 shifts these sentiments, if at all?
  3. On page 225, Polly struggles to come to terms with her mother’s death, she lays in the woods after school trying to remember her mom, to tether her. When Polly cries at the dinner table, Donna confronts her and finds out what she’s doing in the woods after school. Donna says, “Once something’s been done it can’t be undone.” and this becomes the motto with which Polly approaches her life. How do you feel this motto has translated into 1998?
    1. I feel like this is the conclusion that Polly has struggled to come to once she arrived in 1998. It took Polly a very long time to accept the fact that she has not thought through the full effects of her decision, and she is still living through the ripples of her decision. I believe that ultimately, because of this great travel through time, so far we have only seen Polly in her recovery stage. Polly does utilize this “once something’s been done it can’t be undone” approach with most aspects of her life, taking Baird’s betrayal with great stride, even sailing away from Norberto and Galveston still seemingly emotionally intact. I think that the only aspect of her life she doesn’t apply this motto to is her Frank-mission (Frission). Polly’s strong bond with Frank (or at least with his memories) makes him an exception, and even the driving force of this piece, because this “can’t be undone” attitude would keep Polly in one place attempting to be content, unless she has a driving force that betrays that attitude.
  4. In the scene where Cookie finally finds her son, why do you think Thea Lim made him purposefully late for the reunion party? What is the significance of that choice?
  5. What do you think of Polly and Norberto’s goodbye scene? Should Polly have given her baseball cards to Norberto even though they are her reminder of Frank? How do the stresses and conflicts of this world affect the way in which you see the rape-attempt (if at all) and the attempts to make up for it?

Discussion Director: Ellis Wilkins-Haverkamp

  1. What is the significance of Cookie in the overall narrative of Polly’s life and story?
  2. What similarities do you see between the characters of Baird and Norberto?
  3. Why does Polly recreate her date with Frank while brainstorming the backstory of how she and Norberto met? Additionally, what was the turning point that mad Polly realize she had betrayed Frank? (page 215-216)
  4. How does Frank’s perspective on time’s inevitability compare to Polly’s? Which do you more align with?
  • Ultimately, I believe Frank and Polly differ in that Frank is always preparing for something to go wrong so that he can always remember when times were going his way, and generally has a bleak outlook on the negative potential of the future. This is well represented by how sad Frank gets as Polly brings up the hypothetical of if they were to break up in a day, as well as in the very first chapter, when Polly finds a baseball card (I think) from Frank that says “Something to remember us by,” demonstrating that he’s completely prepared to face the chance of he and Polly being separated forever, trying to keep good memories in mind. Polly, on the other hand (as we’ve seen) is somewhat overly optimistic, and believes everything will eventually work out. As a result, she doesn’t hold the same value of collecting as Frank does, because she assumes that the positive moments will always return to the present, with no need to hold too many mementos.
  1. Why did Polly give Norberto the baseball cards? What does this say about their relationship? (page 249)

Lit Connector:

Illustrator: Shelby Edison


This picture is of the cherry blossoms in Washington DC during the 1980s, when Polly and Frank take their trip to see the flowers. Frank has planned a full day of touring the city and taking in the cherry blossoms. Polly, on the other hand, would rather get lost in the city and spend time with Frank. They get into a fight over their disagreements, and Polly realizes that from losing her mother, she has a slight fear that once things happen, you cannot undo them. This picture relates to the book because it shows the sights they would’ve seen on their trip. The atmosphere is crowded, lively, and happy, while Polly and Frank feel alone and upset. The difference between the setting and the interior feelings really exemplify how this patch in Polly and Frank’s relationship is different from most of their other happy experiences together.

During the cherry blossom chapter of this section, how did learning about a part of Polly and Frank’s relationship that wasn’t ideal change your impression of the couple? For example, do you think that Polly and Frank’s relationship wasn’t as special as Polly’s memories tell her they are? Or does the relationship now feel more realistic?

Literary Luminary: eli johns-krull

  • “Are they communists?”

“The opposite! They needed trading partners, so they kept their neighbors alive. Cooperation can be self-interested. But not here. In the ‘80s, people’d strip a corpse to survive. It was awful.” (205)

  • “If you get close enough to the water, you can’t see behind you. You can pretend you’re on a beach, anywhere. Somewhere else.” (210)
  • “The same place. But a different time…I guess that makes it a different place.” (211)I wanted to focus on this quote for several reasons. For one, it ties back to a discussion we touched on last class about how Polly has been treating the past as if it was a different place that still exists and is now being forced to reckon with the fact that it has ceased to be entirely in the face of time marching on. I thought it was interesting to see this idea echoed by Norberto in a moment where he and Polly are attempting to become closer in the face of their impending union. It shows a parallel between the two characters; both think of the past as a place separate from the one they now live in, but it seems Norberto understands better (and has for longer) that the past, as much as it may be a different place, is not one to which he can return. He can only imagine himself back to it when he stands on the beach, unable to see the present for what it truly is. At the same time, this quote spoke to me because it reminded me of the question “how many planks of a boat can you replace before it becomes a different boat entirely?” This quote wrestles with the same idea; how much can time change a place (or, for that matter, a person) before it becomes somewhere completely different?
  • “You cannot put life on hold to have a moment of grief, so every second, half the people in the world are split in two This is what they mean by life goes on, and the worst is that you go on along with it too.” (216)
  • “She wants to tell him that the past is safe, no matter what. But she knows, with a stinging pang, that it is the future he is concerned with.” (229)
  • “The only thing worse than leaving without saying good-bye to Norberto was seeing him again.” (247)
  • “Once something’s been done, it can’t be undone.” (249)

Literary Terms Expert: Maja Neal

  1. “There was nothing on the horizon. Only the flat line of forever.”
  2. “It was otherworldly and reaching, like the sand was stretching out its arms to touch somebody.” (P. 219)
  3. “The tourists seem to think the car is not a car, but a rock to be brooked, as if by a stream.” (P. 230)
  4. “Yet this vision ruined her ability to be a machine. Now every time she passed that window, she could not help but look, a twitch that spoiled the groove.” (P. 239)

I liked this expression specifically because the whole ordeal with Norberto was especially, grossly captivating, the kind of story that makes you go “ew ew ew” but also compels you to know how it ends. Polly’s reaction after the attempted assault is almost indicative of that. She hallucinates him (or doesn’t?) out of fear at first, but after he sells his house to gain her passage to Buffalo, she fluctuates between guilt and shame, going back and forth on whether or not she wants to see him. This particular sentence is from before, so she’s still working at her tile job with the H-1s and is terrified of Norberto or the police finding her and arresting her for murder. I liked how the expression capitalized on the workers’ dehumanization – they are treated like machines – and “a twitch that spoiled the groove” is just a lovely-sounding metaphor for one thing that’s throwing Polly’s whole life off.

An Ocean of Minutes: Lit Circle Round 4

Here are the students’ literature circle materials for this week’s book club meeting on Thea Lim’s novel An Ocean of Minutes (pp. 142-197). The first round is available here, the second round here, and the third round here.

Summarizer: Eva Trakhtman

  • Polly receives a “No Results Found” answer from the Demographics Center. Polly is pitied by her neighbors, but she continues to go through her workdays, finding small distractions in crossword puzzles.
  • Baird gets progressively more worried about quarterly reviews and makes sure that Polly follows her necessary break-times. Polly finds out that Baird didn’t save Leonard because he didn’t want to, not because TimeRaiser is homophobic.
  • Baird is very restless and nervous during quarterly reviews. He is like this because the two of them are behind schedule, and also (most importantly) the stolen yearbook with Elvis Presley (and Leonard) is laying right next to the logs. Cassie (one of the reviewers) goes to get the logs and brushes past the yearbook. The review ends and Baird and Polly are unsure of whether Cassie saw the yearbook.
  • After that traumatic event Polly starts crying, and she finally tells Baird that she is actually searching for Frank and not a cousin. Baird is surprisingly empathetic; he tells Polly that she should go to the Strand to get more information about who left Galveston in the past years.
  • Polly goes to the Strand and convinces herself that selling her body to strangers is something that she can do to get money for information. She is immediately cornered by two men and led to a bar. When the men start showing her unwanted affection, she realizes she can’t go through with her scheme. This is when Baird, who is sitting drunk at the end of the bar, swoops in and saves her (by cracking bottles on the men’s heads). Returning the favor, Polly saves Baird from the bouncer and leads him outside, he starts crying here and asking Polly to forgive him before he is picked up by a cab.
  • The next day at work Polly is not allowed back at work, she is stripped of her 0-1 status and is made an H-1 for allegedly stealing the Elvis Presley yearbook (Baird framed Polly!).
  • Polly works an H-1 job manufacturing bathroom tiles, she lives in horrible conditions and has to shower in the Pit. Polly is miserable and snaps at a woman who collects inspirational sayings and who tries to share them with Polly. The next day to make up for her “bratty” behavior, Polly gives some of her carrots to the woman, whose name is Cookie, helps her clean the Pit, and informs her of the Demographics Center.
  • Polly is approached by Norberto who offers her a place at his apartment, he asks her to pretend to be his wife (because she apparently looks like her) so that he can get cash-benefits from the government. He says he’ll do this in exchange for information about Frank. Polly rejects this offer. Early the next morning she is woken up by Cookie and some other ladies who lead her to an abandoned house a distance away and say that they can clean it up and move in together. Polly agrees to do this. On their way back to their complex, Polly sees Norberto following her. He catches up to her and tells her that Frank is still alive and is currently in Buffalo, New York. Polly agrees to marry Norberto as long as she doesn’t have to pay any more rent.

Discussion Director: Ellis Wilkins-Haverkamp

  1. How does the (beginning) of the chapter demonstrate changes in Polly’s character, specifically when it comes to the Frank situation?
  2. How did Polly’s attitude towards other characters differ from her interactions with them in previous chapters (Sandy and Misty, Baird, etc)?
  3. On page 158, Polly tells Baird that she can’t simply leave her job because she’s bonded, only for Baird to respond with “What’s ‘bonded?’” Did you take this more as Baird using sarcastic ignorance to compel her to look for Frank, or did this cause some suspicion about the amount of information TimeRaiser gives to the bosses of Journeymen?
  4. What are your thoughts on Polly’s decision to go to prison instead of battle Baird in court? What motivated her to do this, and would you have done the same?
  5. What new big similarities did this section introduce between TimeRaiser and real-world systems?

For my final question, I noticed in Polly’s description of prison that it ultimately seemed like she was just put in isolation with worse living conditions while ultimately still needing to work for TimeRaiser. This reminded me of the prison labor we have today, as many prisons don’t pay their inmates for the work they do at all (this includes Texas, where this prison is). TimeRaiser’s prisons operate similarly, even making Polly take money out of her life fund to buy tools that allow her to do the tasks she’s been assigned. In addition, prisons in Texas threaten their inmates with solitary confinement if they don’t do their work which reminded me of the fact that Polly had to work in a windowless, repurposed freezer.

Lit Connector: Shelby Edison

  1. On page 177, Polly’s bunkmate has a book of inspirational quotes that she reads out. This reminded me of Mr. Brown, the teacher in the book Wonder, and the inspirational quotes that he gives to his class.
  2. On page 153, Polly has a discussion where she explains that she is in her 20s, but the people she is talking to say that because she time traveled, she is really in her 40s. This reminded me of the debate that I’d have when I was little over how old you were if your birthday was on a leap year.
  3. Polly signing as a distraction on page 154 remined me of a scene in the musical Hello, Dolly, where Dolly creates an elaborate song to distract one character from noticing another one.
  4. On page 169, Polly and Frank spend time together in a pillow fort and talk about the future. This reminded me of the ending scene from the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

In the film, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy sit in front of Pemberley, having a picnic outing together. In Ocean of Minutes, Frank has collected a bunch of flowers when Polly returns, and they sit together, being extremely romantic. While the exact scenes don’t mirror each other exactly, but they had very similar energies. Both scenes have the two lovers sitting together alone and talking about how much they love each other, which is pretty intimate. In my head, I also imagined these scenes to be similar in how they looked.

Illustrator: Eli Johns-Krull

eli pic

In this section, Polly, after visiting the Strand with Baird, loses her job with him and with it her position as an O-1. Now a H-1, Polly must leave her previous accommodations and move into the storage container H-1 housing she previously pitied as she saw from afar. Polly struggles with this through the section, including refusing to shower for fear of the shame of being seen by a passing group of O-1s and reacting with anger when Cookie, a fellow O-1, attempts to connect with her. Polly’s fall from grace in this section shows a major change in her status, significantly limiting the little power she had before and increasing her time with TimeRaiser by almost a year. This image of storage container housing connected the best of the images I found to this idea, as being forced into these new accommodations represents the breadth and severity of this change for Polly, as well as providing her something to run away from in addition to the hope to see Frank she’s running towards. Polly is made desperate by this housing, desperate enough to first agree to work with other H-1s on a dilapidated house away from the storage containers, before ultimately agreeing to marry Norberto and move in with him to escape the reality of what living as an H-1 truly means.

Do you agree with Polly’s decision to marry Norberto out of convenience? Why or why not? How do you think this will affect Polly’s ability to reconnect with Frank if/when she finds him?

Literary Luminary: Maja Neal

  1. “Just as the invention of air travel had made it easy to go, but no easier to leave, the invention of time travel made time easy to pass, but no easier to endure.”
  2. “In her heart, the past was not another time, but another place that still existed. It was just that she had taken a wrong turn.”
  3. “She had lost the luxury of rage.”
  4. “But the cold was not the true problem with the shower pit. The problem was that Polly had seen the pit from outside,”

Polly says this in regards to the H-1 shower pit that she and her coworkers used to look down on with pity and shame. Now that she’s an H-1, she’s experiencing not only physical discomfort but guilt. She feels awful when she realizes every woman in the pit is just like her, asking “how did I get here?” This feeling is especially significant when juxtaposed with Polly’s former use of O-1 status as a safety net and a mental pillar. Polly’s “problem” is that she knows what the higher-up working class lives like, and was proud enough to think she would always stay in that position of (very) relative luxury; now, having had her status suddenly stolen, she’s thrown for an emotional loop that results in her arrogance and short temper with some other H-1s.

Literary Terms Expert: Lauren Sternenberg

“This was the happiness of touch, and in that instant she was like a plant standing up, as water makes clay into mud.” (142)

-This is a simile, but it also seems like a direct prelude to Polly’s “letting go” of Frank and latching fully on to the world she’s in now. With Misty being an opposite to Polly’s innate dislike/disappointment in not seeing or meeting Frank, the exhaustion she feels is apparent. She decides to begin looking forward here, in this moment, and like the simile suggests, her letting go of what could be impossible is making her stunted progress—the clay—morph into something she can reap a life from—the mud. On the opposite end, when Polly learns from Norberto about Frank’s inquiries, her life is once again dried up—signified in her decision to leave the women and Cookie’s offer to stay with them in a damp apartment.

“On sober days, Polly and Baird worked together like cogs in a clock, exchanging wrenches and pliers instead of words, a language in tools.” (146)

“To their left, west, there lay the Strand, an avenue of old-timey buildings, tram tracks, and cobbled pavement, like the movie set for an old western with honky-tonk pianos.” (158-159)

“Polly imagined fantastical things at the end of the trail: an underground city run by self-subsisting runways; a hidden port with ships going anywhere but here; a storage locker packed with all the things she missed—peanut butter, orange juice, porkchops, television. She tried to stop these wild fantasies so she would not be let down.” (190)


An Ocean of Minutes: Lit Circle Round 3

Here are the students’ literature circle materials for this week’s book club meeting on Thea Lim’s novel An Ocean of Minutes (pp. 100-141). The first round is available here, and the second round is here.

Summarizer: Ellis Wilkins-Haverkamp

We begin the section with a flashback to May of 1979, being introduced to Frank’s family. We learn that his father left his mother for a time, and then came back, which caused her to develop somewhat of an obsession with happy endings. Through this obsession, she invites Polly’s aunt Donna to her wedding anniversary with the hope of setting Donna up with Frank’s uncle, Teddy. For fear of disappointing Mrs. Marino and despite knowing Donna would have little interest in having a matchmaker, Polly allows this plan to take shape without telling Frank the truth until the day of. At their party, Frank fakes fatal everywhere-pain as an attempt to get Donna to drive Frank “to the hospital,” but Donna has found her own way to ward off Teddy, so Frank and the crowd recover. Mr. Marino proclaims his love for Mrs. Marino, and they smooch it up, and Frank marches Polly to the bathroom to do the same.

We cut back to the future, as Polly watches in awe of the Journeymen that stay incredibly productive. While doing some work with Misty, sorrow washes over her as she remembers Frank and she begins to run downstairs with Misty trailing behind her, until she sees the girl with the red hair explaining that her boss got her a hair dryer for doing some extra work for him, and Polly wonders if Baird could take her to meet Frank.

As she considers ways she could bribe Baird (without finding many), she is flagged down by Norberto, who first questions her about the contact form before revealing that he does not have it, and that it may not even exist. As she becomes frustrated, Norberto tells her that he did find something: a form that proves Frank came looking for Polly while she was still in transit. For the first time, she breaks down into tears in front of someone.

Overcome with confidence that Frank is still searching for her, she approaches Baird and makes a deal with him; she’ll take back his not-suspicious book, and he will wait at the rendezvous point for Polly’s “cousin,” both plans taking place on Saturday. Disguised as a window washer, Polly makes her way to the office and pretends to clean a table as she steals the book, making it back to the hotel with no problems. Upon her success, Baird takes the book and finally heads to the beach. When he returns alone, Polly questions him, but he assures her that there was absolutely no sign of Frank. In somewhat of an attempt to cheer her up, Baird shows Polly the book, which contains not only a yearbook photo of Elvis Presley, but Baird’s boyfriend, Leonard. With disappointment once again, Polly heads back up to her room, and goes to sleep, just like every other night.

The next chapter begins, Polly notices that she’s passed by TimeRaiser’s Demographic Center, and finally stops inside to put in a search for Donna and/or Frank, only to realize that the price is much higher than her life fund allows for. The woman at the desk tells her she can borrow it off, and swipes her card to see if it goes through. It does, and with no way to turn back, Polly is forced to put in a search for Donna, for whom she finds nothing because Donna doesn’t work for TimeRaiser. Instead, she writes a letter to Donna at her last known address.

With only one Saturday left in September, Polly snuck out of the Hotel Galvez down to the beach in order to search for Frank herself. As night approaches, she finds a good post to watch the doc workers and the road from, and she eventually sights some guards, one of which she’s seen before, talking to a man who pulled into the parking lot. From behind, she can’t see him, so she begins to run up to the group before he grabs a duffel bag from the guards, and she realizes it is definitely not Frank. Still, she visits the docks at dates she considers significant, eventually latching onto hope that Frank will come to the hotel on the night of a Mel Gibson movie. When he doesn’t, she finally realizes that it’s only been her all along.

The section ends with a leap back into the past, witnessing one large, swift overview of seemingly everything Polly and Frank would do together, the regularities and varieties of their lives with each other.

Discussion Director: Shelby Edison

  • On page 107, Lim utilizes comedy to tell a story about Frank and Polly’s relationship. This is the scene where Frank tells Polly to say he needs to go to the hospital, then promptly fakes an illness. How does Lim’s use of comedy in this flashback add to the overall book? For example, does it provide a much-needed respite from Polly’s distress in the TimeRaiser world or does it help to characterize Frank and Polly’s relationship outside of illness?

My answer: I really enjoyed this bit of comedy that Lim included. I think that it was much needed after Polly’s disappointments so far. It definitely gave me the chance to laugh and rekindled an interest to carry on in the novel, apart from all of Polly’s sadness. This comedic scene portrays Polly as someone whose character trait is not just being sad. It also develops Frank as such a fun character, who really cares for Polly. Though he doesn’t appear in any scenes in 1998, which is a bulk of the book, these flashbacks, especially comedic ones, make me feel like he is in the entire story because we have learned so much about him.

  • Lim makes a pop-culture reference of our world – the Elvis Presley high school yearbook. How does referencing a piece of pop culture that exists in our world ground us in the new world in Ocean of Minutes?
  • “It was the first movie made since the founding of America, and Mel Gibson has traveled from 1983 Hollywood to make it.” This sentence appears on page 137. Page 120 introduces the concept of time crime. How does a more casual approach to time travel that is less rigid than the system that Polly is a part of change your perception of time travel in the TimeRaiser world?
  • Page 100 explains the family dynamic in Frank’s family, told by Polly’s point of view and she uncovers the affair the occurred between Mr, Marino and another woman and the family tensions surrounding this episode. How would the reader’s perception of the Marino family have been different if it was told from Frank’s perspective? Did you want a more inside view of the family, or did you like Polly’s account as a outsider?
  • The chapter starting on page 139 is one paragraph and filled with descriptions of Polly and Frank’s relationship, but for the most part, little to no plot. Why do you think that Lim chose to include this chapter in the book? How does the singular paragraph styling of the chapter enhance the prose within it?

Lit Connector: Eli Johns-Krull

  1. “‘Big-’ Frank glances at Polly- ‘hair?’ Polly rolls her eyes” (101) connected to John Oliver’s “torso” joke in his segment on the Miss America Pageant (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver).
  2. “Yet she was invisible to them, because she was where she belonged, with the rags and bucket” (122). Polly’s ability to get away with stealing the envelope because her work makes her invisible to those around her reminded me of the first episode of Sherlock, wherein they make it a point that the serial killer got away with several murders because his job made him invisible.I don’t watch Sherlock, but I have seen the first episode on two occasions. I vividly remember that the writers put it in dialogue that the reason the taxi cab driver got away with murdering people for so long without the suspicion of either the police or Sherlock himself was because, as a cab driver, he’s a virtually invisible (or, at least, unmemorable) presence to the people around him. Polly being able to get away with stealing the envelope out of the office because she’s viewed as a maid, and a Journeyman (probably with the assumption she’s H-1) at that, which makes her presence go unnoticed and unremembered (so far, at least) reminded me heavily of this idea. Though their crimes are on very different scales, I thought it was an interesting parallel that both writers make it a point that it is the character’s position (and, with that, their class) that makes the characters invisible, instead of a specific effort on their part.
  3. The interaction around Polly’s LifeFund at the Demographics Center (specifically the fact that she paid before she was ready/could actively make the decision to) on page 129 reminded me of pay-to-win phone games, specifically the TheOdd1sOut video about games that charge you without your knowledge/full consent.
  4. On 133 Polly talks about the protagonist of The Time Machine travelling to the end of time, which reminded me of the part in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when the crew travels to the restaurant at the end of the universe.

Illustrator: Maja Neal

the herald

This is, of course, Elvis’s (and Leonard’s!) high school yearbook. One very cool bit of information I came across while looking for images is that there is, in fact, a Ruleman directly next to Elvis in the book – it’s just a girl and her name is Shirley. But I thought it was very fun of Lim to pop that name out for realism purposes. This book is also the item Polly steals from the central hotel office to use to pay Baird, who, in exchange, goes and waits at 25th street for Frank. He’s ultimately unsuccessful and Polly feels a bit used, but when Baird becomes harsh about the fact that he’ll never see Leonard again and needs anything of his he can hang on to, Polly starts to understand. This was a particularly memorable moment in the book for a lot of us, based on who I talked to, not only because of Elvis but because it was a moment demonstrating Baird’s weakness about Leonard, which perhaps represents a person that Polly is still very much able to become if she never finds Frank.

Question: Does Polly truly see herself in Baird (as evidenced by the bottom of 127) ? That is to say, do you think she still believes deep down that Frank’s coming, or not?

Literary Luminary: Lauren Sternenberg

  1. “Mrs. Marino has a monstrous longing to see love conquer everything, to eviscerate all memory of the year all failed. And Donna is in its path. But asking Frank to tell his mother to stop would be like asking him to make her tell of all those midnights when she couldn’t bear her marriage bed, and so she sat at her kitchen table, peeling apples while noiseless tears slicked her cheeks.” (page 104)
  2. “Polly cannot sacrifice Donna to Mrs. Marino, because Donna would never be anyone’s sacrifice, anyone’s white-gowned blonde, screaming demurely.” (page 105)
  3. “Safety kept receding: it didn’t arrive, as she thought it would, when she returned to the laboring zone, where the hotel’s innards were exposed like a dollhouse, and workers stepped like storks from post to post, across an unpoured floor, sun hats under hard hats to keep skin from burning.” (page 122)
    1. I chose this quote to focus on because it clearly displays the memories of Frank are becoming farther away as Polly adjusts to this new world. Her safety was Frank, and now that he’s gone—at least for now—she feels as if the last bit of stability she had is receding. Of course, during this quote, Polly has just grabbed a valuable item for Baird at the risk of embarrassment, so the direct meaning is not clearly tied to Frank. Implicitly, though, the hotel’s innards could represent Polly’s thoughts, and the longer she goes without reassurance from Frank, the more frayed her hopes are becoming. Also, this language is beautifully descriptive and indicative of Polly’s current state.
  4. “The Demographics Center was in a battered strip mall that sat on the highest shoulder of the seawall, defenseless against the bleachy sun and sprays of sand, in a no-man’s-land between hotels. The windows were filthy with sea salt and mud, and Polly passed it by more than once before she realized it was her destination.” (page 128)
  5. “All she could remember was the moment when the time machine breaks and the traveler is hurled forward into futurity. He sees a trillion sunrises and sunsets, until everything goes red. He is at the end of time. There is nothing but ashy beach and giant, slithering crabs with palpitating mouths and pale, jerking antennae. He remembered the sounds of his world, birdsong and teatime, and he thinks, All that is over.” (page 133)

Literary Terms Expert: Eva Trakhtman

“On a sea of strange, she needed him to be her twin, so from very little evidence, she compelled a story for him that mimicked her own.” (p.113)

“The man and woman looked nothing like the others who peopled the site, who were small and sun-worn, with cagey posture.” (p.120)

“The waiting was like ice on a stripped nerve.” (p.123)

“Before, she’d watched ships stop short where the waters surrendered their depths, and trawlers rush to receive their merchandise – like a giant trapped in a crevasse as tiny beasts flooded to strip its bones.” (p.124)

This takes place while Polly is busy refurnishing the same chair and is staring out a window, scheming up a way to sneak back down to the 25th street and finally meet Frank. I think, this quote is first of all, very gory and beautiful and I love the image of a trapped giant. I believe that this quote can be used as a direct reflection of the way in which Polly and other time travelers are exploited by TimeRaiser and are affected by this new time in general. So far, we have seen Polly arriving in 1998 (docking) and then become overwhelmed by this new world that is so mystical and eerie to her, and in which she knows she still has to find Frank (her docking is voluntary). Right after she utters this observation, Polly says that she no longer sees that image in the docking ships because she knows that is the location where she will meet Frank. I think it’s interesting to see, as well, how quickly her mind on a topic can change when it is invaded by thoughts about Frank.

“She could hear her neighbors making noises as one organism: a gasp, a pause, then laughter.” (p.138)

“It was she who had invented his vast, urgent movements. In the end, there was only Polly.” (p. 138)


An Ocean of Minutes: Lit Circle Round 2

Here are the students’ literature circle materials for this week’s book club meeting on Thea Lim’s novel An Ocean of Minutes (pp. 52-99). The first round is available here.

Summarizer: Josie Nunn

The old man, Henry Baird, picks up Polly. He is the one who asked for Polly to come and help him restore furniture for a hotel vacation spot. It turns out that he’s the one that made Polly come to 1998 instead of 1993. 93% of the population has been wiped out from the pandemic. Like Polly, Baird wanted to time travel in order to help save his boyfriend; however, TimeRaiser blocked him from joining because he is gay.

Polly meets the driver from the other day at Moody Plaza. His name is Norberto. She tries to make calls to Frank and other family members but none of the calls go through. Polly learns from Norberto that 1) she is paid by TimeRaiser through her LifeFund, 2) the North and the South have spilt up into the United States and America, and 3) America has become a resort destination for the rich countries that survived the pandemic. Also, people keep speaking Spanish to her.

Flashback to Frank going over to Polly’s ex-boyfriend Chad’s house to get back Polly’s furniture. The furniture originally belonged to her late mother. He fights Chad, but Chad’s sister comes downstairs and tell them to knock it off. So, Chad goes downstairs and helps Frank load the furniture in the back of his truck.

Polly goes to work at a hotel being reconstructed. She meets Baird there. He sleeps while she works. Polly keeps asking Norberto about finding Frank.

On Tuesday Polly meets Misty and Sandy. They tell Polly that she might be able to find Frank at the Demographic Center. Sandy is pessimistic while Misty is more optimistic.

After work on Saturday, Polly walked all the way to where the Flagship Hotel once was. She sees a family swimming which makes her uncomfortable. She gets to a wall of trash and finds a chair that was at the Flagship Hotel. A group of soldiers come out and point their guns at her. She gets searched and then taken to a trailer to get questioned. Eventually, they let her go with a warning. Apparently there’s a problem with H-1’s trying to escape by crossing the border.

Discussion Director 1: Shelby Edison

An Ocean of Minutes Discussion Questions

  • Throughout this section, Norberto repeatedly promises Polly that he will attempt to look into information to reconnect Polly with the people she is trying to find. And Norberto repeatedly fails to keep up on his promises, leaving Polly disappointed. Do you think that Polly will eventually give up on asking Norberto for help on reconnecting? Or will she fall into a cyclical pattern of getting her hopes up before being disappointed?
  • On page 90, there’s a shift in perspective to branch away from Polly and go into Baird’s memories as he reflects upon his time with Leonard. Why do you think Lim decided to implement a perspective change in this paragraph? Did it take you out of Polly’s story abruptly, or did it add complexity to the TimeRaiser world that Polly is living in?
  • Pages 69-74 go back in time to show Frank’s mission to take Polly’s furniture back from Chad. Reflecting back on last discussion, one of Frank’s character traits so far has been countering awkwardness with a sweet gesture (i.e. Frank not remembering the napkins from the bar, but then giving Polly a whole roll of them.) Did you find this chapter to be a continuation of this character trait of Frank? Did you find his crusade to take the furniture back to be reckless or romantic? Why?
  • One quote on page 90 especially stood out to me: “To feel sad about the past is to recognize the past as passed.” How did you interpret this quote in relation to Polly’s story? Polly seems to be a character who refuses to see the past as passed, holding onto a sense of debilitating optimism. Do you agree with this interpretation of Polly? Do you see her inching closer to accepting the past as passed, or living in a state of perpetual time-travel jet lag?

My answer: I saw this quote to mean that until we have accepted that something can no longer happen, we live with a sense of (false) hope that anything is possible. Relating to Polly, I think that her mission to find the Flagship Hotel at all costs shows how she is unwilling to accept that the past is passed, unwilling to say that the odds of reconnecting with Frank are low and her expectations are a product of a different time. I also think that the fact that scenes which take place is the past (1970s) are told in present tense show Polly’s unwillingness to not live in the past.

  • Polly meets Sandy and Misty, two sisters who are Journeymen that help Polly out with explaining some of the fundamentals of the world. Misty presents a new outlook on the TimeRaiser system, as being from 1984, she’s experienced such a bad world that she is just happy to be alive and well, even if freedoms are limited. Did Misty’s perspective change how you viewed the TimeRaiser system? What are the benefits of introducing a character to the story who tolerates the system of the new world?


Discussion Director 2: Eli Johns-Krull

  1. “They fixed it, with something like only seconds to spare, in the buffer time” (54). Here we learn that the change from 1993 to 1998 was a correction done while Polly was in transit, and therefore not something she could have learned about. Does the indication she was sent to 1998 because of accidents and miscommunications change your opinion of TimeRaiser? Why or why not?
  2. On page 64 we get an explanation of the LifeFund system, which seems to indicate that TimeRaiser controls all of Polly’s money and expenses. Does this strike you as a reasonable system, or an exploitative one? Why or why not?
  3. “Believing [the cosmic powers were shunning her] was more pleasant than realizing the cosmos had no preference” (76). Do you agree with Polly here? Why or why not? Would you rather believe the universe is working against you or is ambivalent to you?I think it might be more pleasant to believe the universe is actively shunning you, because that feeds back into the idea that you are important enough for the universe to take notice of your existence. Polly wants to believe she matters, one way or another, and despite it being terrible for the universe to have it out for you, it shows that the universe cares, in a roundabout way. Despite that, I believe it is better, overall, to go through life with the realization that the universe operates on too large a scale to focus on you specifically. I personally follow the idea of absurdism as the guiding principle of my life, which yields the answer that any plan of the universe’s happens on too grand a scale for human beings to ever comprehend it; therefore, the simple answer is that it is better (or, at least, more accurate, to view the universe as ambivalent). Through that, you are freed from universal constraints and, I believe, more able to take agency for yourself and your own actions.
  4. “We’re getting the past back, but better. It will be the way we like to remember it instead of the way it was. People will pay anything for that” (82). Do you think the American culture over-glorifies the past? Why (not)? Why do you think we like to imagine the past as better than it was?
  5. “How do we know it wasn’t actually an even more virulent version of the flu masquerading as a vaccine?” (87). Sandy offers this at the end of a series of conspiracy theories about TimeRaiser’s true intentions with sending the vaccine back to 1981. Do you think this idea is plausible? Why or why not? How does what we know about TimeRaiser affect your opinion?



Lit Connector: Maja Neal


Landscape of overgrown buildings: similar to the one from [the video game] The Last of Us


Polly describes the buildings around her as being overgrown as if taken back by nature. This led me to picture the run-down landscape as similar to the one from The Last of Us, but with less buildings, as she also says (and I can believe, from what I’ve seen of spectacularly flat Galveston). The Last of Us, similarly, takes place a few years after most of humanity has been wiped out by an awful disease. The only really big difference is that the game’s disease turns people into zombies. Either way, the post-apocalyptic feel – and, more specifically, the one of a world regrown instead of a world totally obliterated – is pretty close.

Border control: Pretty much an exact metaphor for the current Mexican border crisis

Baird’s past: Extremely similar to Klaus and Dave’s situation in The Umbrella Academy.

The splitting of America and the United States: The Civil War references are pretty much on blast here. 

Illustrator: Lauren Sternenberg

lauren pic

I chose this picture because throughout major events in this section, there are chairs.

First with sitting in the trishaw with Baird, where her job and the state of the US is explained to her. Then with Norberto, who isn’t the most accommodating to get Polly in touch with Frank.

The next big event is a flashback to Frank confronting Chad about Polly’s mother’s furniture. He proves he cares about her enough to stand up to this ugly, violent man, which undermines the fear Polly feels in the future about her being forgotten. If he can remember where her mother’s furniture is, make arrangements to go get it, and successfully do so, I’d say they have a good chance.

Then Polly actually goes to work, where Baird is drunk and sad about his lost love. She is comfortable for the first time here.

Lastly, with the interaction with immigration. She’s held in a chair while being questioned, then left in the chair long enough that she falls asleep thinking of the Flagstaff hotel she still needs to meet Frank at. The chair here represents hope, and even as she is pulled away, she regains some of that confidence Misty and Sandy accidentally made her lose.


Literary Luminary: Eva Trakhtman


  1. She’d tried to examine what she saw with detachment – blocks of houses with trees growing out of their roofs, roads mutating into woods – as if she was only a visitor to this place, because she was. (p 75)
    1. This quote shows Polly, who is unable to get out of bed in her hotel room, observing 1998 America from outside her window. Polly is a stranger in a new world, which is why she refers to herself as a tourist, and her inability to perceive the world around her as currently her own is consistently expressed throughout the book. This is just one example. I chose this quote because of the clear animosity in the writing “roads mutating into woods”, which reflects how Polly invalidates the world around her. I wonder how long it will take her to rid herself of this distancing technique, and if she ever will, it’s interesting to see denial written so beautifully and intricately.
  2. Nostalgia drove their work; without sentimental value they’d be out of a job. But you could not get too involved with the nostalgic impulse yourself. (p 89)
  3. The girl in her bikini was almost more unsettling than the foreign horrors Polly had envisioned, because her alikeness insisted that Polly’s own decent world was on the same spectrum as this one. (p 91)
  4. “We’ve never seen an O-1 escapee before. You’ve got a good deal, in relation. Why would you try to stow away?” (p 96)
  5. “Christ Almighty. That’s what you get for being a nice guy. You better pipe down before I take you back to holding. You made your bed, now lie in it.”

He was right. She had signed the papers, she had agreed, and now she only had herself to blame. She had done it all without understanding the weight of what she was doing. Until this moment, the choice she’d made had kept its true, perverse nature secret: it was irreversible, and only comprehensible after it was done. (p 99)


Literary Terms Expert: Ellis Wilkins-Haverkamp

“Silence crackled between them.” (pg. 56)

“Her brain was not able to sustain the information he’d given. It held it for a pause, them rejected it, like a coin slot dropping a bad dime.” (pg. 64)

“There was a polished-steel mirror, but she kept away from it, not wanting to see a strangers face.” (pg. 67)

“She heard the sound of waves crashing, but really it was the plastic sheet, gusting in and out at the hallway’s end, like the south side of the building had gills.” (pg. 67)

“The march of goosebumps across his shoulders, his hand in her hair, his toes lacing her ankles, his arm on her waist like a roller coaster bar, her body unlocking, the catch of her heart.” (pg. 68)

“Empty plots had a bald, startled look, still bearing the footprints of a house…” (pg. 77)

“She put it back, name-side down, but the brand was on both sides. The wormhole spit her back out.” (pg. 79)

“Polly knew what was going to happen before it happened, the ill about to come from Sandy’s mouth, like an incantation, a thing that becomes actual when words hit air.” (pg. 87-88)

“Eventually this white noise of optimism would completely fuzz over her memories of their minutiae…” (pg. 89)

The quote on page 68 holds significance not only in the way it’s spoken with various examples of personification, but also how the quote acts as one large symbol of Polly’s jealousy. Someone, no matter who they are, is able to have what she has been reaching for since even before she time traveled: the chance to have a baby with Frank. And now, in a drab, depressing room that’s far from her ideal future, she’s far away from a potentially dead Frank, while somebody else gets to have what she can’t.

An Ocean of Minutes: Lit Circle Round 1

Now that we’re doing a “book club” at PVA, our presentations are taking the form of a “literature circle.” The students’ lit circle materials for the first three chapters of Thea Lim’s novel An Ocean of Minutes (pp.1-51) are below:

Summarizer: Shelby Edison

Polly and Frank drive to Houston Intercontinental Airport where Polly is scheduled to time travel. She is scheduled to go to the year 1993 and she and Frank have a plan to meet the first Saturday at the Flagship Hotel. Polly is traveling because Frank has been diagnosed with the flu and the only way for him to get medical care is for Polly to work for TimeRaiser and travel into the future. A woman nears her Polly starts to cry when she has to remove her pair of shoes that she wore from home. Polly, after changing, accidentally goes into the wrong waiting area, before being told to go to the correct room for 0-1 visas, or people with specific talents. The woman waiting with her has a breakdown and leaves. During her examination, Polly worries about being rerouted or not seeing Frank again. She doesn’t remember much of the journey, but she does remember finding a picture of her and Frank that he secretly gave her. She rips it up because she is certain that she will remember him. She gets to the future and in the hospital is told that it is actually 1998.

Back in 1978, Polly sits at a bar, where Frank works. She begins to cry and he hands her a napkin. Polly lives with her aunt, who encourages her to go back to the bar to see Frank again. She does and Frank gives her a matchbox with his name and phone number. For their first date, they walk in the park. It rains, so Frank suggests that they go to his place to get out of the rain. They see a squirrel get run over by a car, but it is still living. To put it out of its misery, Polly stomps on the squirrel. She says she should go home, but misses the bus. She realizes that she wants to g to Frank’s place but it is too late. In the car, Frank gives Polly an entire container of the napkins from the bar.

In 1993, Polly hopes that Frank will pick her up, but only TimeRaiser personnel can pick her up. She is taken by a driver to Galveston. Everything looks abandoned and she learns that 93% of the population has died due to the flu. She is supposed to work for the decorator at the Hotel Galvez. She wanted to call her aunt to find out where Frank is, but the telephone number that she has is from the 1980s. The driver has to go home and she is not able to call anyone. The next morning, the phone is her room goes off telling her where she is to go for the day. She is to be picked up by a bus and taken to work. She gets on the bus. A lot of other also get on the bus and they pass around tomatoes. The bus driver tells everyone to get off when they reach a factory but Polly explains that she is in the wrong place. The driver realizes the mistake, but says that she has to work there for a few hours or else he will get fired. The job at the factory is riding bikes to use for power. Polly rides the bike, and realizes that the bus driver is not returning for her. She has to use the restroom, and wanders around trying to find it. She finds a recording of children playing, but no restroom. She has to go in the bushes. She attempts to walk back to where she started the day, in hopes of meeting Frank, but the journey is longer than she thought. She ends up being found by an older man who tells her to come with him.

Discussion Director 1: Maja Neal

  1. Did you notice the tense changes through the times? If so, how did they affect your reading?
  2. Do you think Polly goes into the time travel operation with an inflated sense of her own importance?
  3. How did Polly’s job strike you – as a necessary payment or more like indentured servitude?
  4. In that vein, what past conflicts did this one (and Polly’s forced solution) remind you of? How did you react to her predicament?
  5. Why do you think the author chose to detour Polly through the working-class section of Galveston? What did it do for our understanding of the world in 1998?I think it was a really important choice of Lim’s to take Polly through the grittier part of Galveston before letting her get to her job. This way, not only do the readers get a glimpse of what normal life is like (considering Polly, by time-immigration standards, is special), but so does Polly. She gets to experience the regular working-class conditions, which might later make her more sympathetic towards them; also, her lodgings are still pretty humble for a “special” passenger, giving the reader a view of how little difference there is between employees. Polly also tends to bond with the workers around her (like the first and second drivers) and is concerned about the people in the bike energy mill, which I took as a demonstration of her empathy, despite the fact she remains high-strung.

Discussion Director 2: Eli Johns-Krull

  1. On page 21, Polly rips up the only photo she brought with her to travel forward with. While she begins to regret this almost immediately, she explains that she did it because there is not a “future timeline in which she could forget [Frank].” Do you agree with her motivations? Why (not)? What would you have done in her place?
  2. On page 23, it is revealed to Polly that she has not gone to 1993, as she planned, but 1998. Based on the book so far, and the sparing information we’ve gotten about the organization that brought her into the future, do you think this misplacement was an honest mistake or something more malicious Why (not)? Does the fear/secrecy about reroutements earlier in the chapter sway your opinion?
  3. “Even if, between now and ’93, aliens invade and the cities are crumbled and remade, the land will still end where the sea begins at the bottom of Twenty-Fifth Street” (5). This is the assurance that Polly and Frank share with each other when discussing meeting again in the future. They are sure of this before Polly leaves. But Polly arrives in a future where the cities have crumbled and been remade (though there are, as yet, no aliens). Do you think her surety about the future and their ability to find each other will last in this entirely unfamiliar world? Why (not)?
  4. On page 49, Polly encounters a recording of children’s voices on a playground being played for the guests at a resort. She notes that “she could think of no healthy reason for the recording.” Do you agree with her? Why (not)? Why do you think the resort keeps that recording playing?I, like Polly, don’t think there’s a healthy reason for the voices to be played. While I understand the merit of using voices as background noise (similar to meditation or a general hum of voices to use as while noise), there’s something specifically creepy about having it be kids’ laughter. Using children as entertainment, especially by adults, is generally slightly off-putting to me, but it’s especially strange to just have a recording of them playing. It’s not something I would ever use as background noise, which makes me wonder why it appeals to these bottle-wearing vacationers. I don’t have many guesses as to why the resort uses that record, except that perhaps there’s a scarcity of children in this new, changed world (either because people have stopped having them in response to the pandemic, or because something about the pandemic made it hard if not impossible for people to have children). If I had to chalk their motivation up to anything, I hope it’s nostalgia for a better time when there were children running around playgrounds (under the assumption that they aren’t anymore) than a more sinister/creepy reason.
  5. “Pandemic took ninety-three percent of us, through sickness or flight” (36). TimeRaiser, the company that sent Polly into the future, didn’t invent the technology in 1981; they got it from 1993. If they have gotten technology, do you think they’ve also received information about the nature of the future? Why (not)? They advertise traveling to a future where the flu has been cured. Do you think they are purposefully misleading journeymen? If so, what do you think their motivations are?

Lit Connector: Lauren Sternenberg

Edwidge Danticat’s Brother I’m Dying Connection (x2)
o   On Page 3, when Frank has just been evicted, he’s worried about his physical possessions. However, it’s not just the items, it’s what they represent to him (family, his personality, possibly even the life he and Polly built) but mostly, stability. His health degenerates shortly after, and suddenly everything that he was is going to end. This connects to Uncle Joseph’s worries in Brother I’m Dying about his church—his livelihood—being burned down due to “helping” the Peacekeepers kill the local gangs. He’s forced to run to keep himself save, to leave everything behind in Haiti and get to America. Then, like Frank, he officially loses the notebooks—Frank’s records—of his little chronicles of Haitian life due to governmental negligence—although his life is later lost as well due to negligence.

Hunger Games connection

World connection

Illustrator: Eva Trakhtman


This image ties directly to the scene where Polly puts a squirrel out of its misery (after its legs are ran over by a car) while on her first date with Frank. The squirrel’s legs are run over, and while Frank wants to call Animal Control, Polly buys a newspaper and stomps on the squirrel’s head. This action shows her determination, which carries through into her confidence and courage as she’s taking on the burden of time-travel. The fear of leaving behind a familiar world and a young love is hard to fathom, but Polly demonstrates in her mercy-killing of the squirrel, and in her abandoning of her old life, that she is an individual that does what she believes needs to be done.


How does the scene with the squirrel come to represent Polly’s actions later on in the book? How does this moment define Frank, and can anything be predicted about his character (or Polly’s) based on how he reacted in this scene?

Literary Luminary: Ellis Wilkins-Haverkamp

“They squeeze each other’s hands so hard, the skin of his suit bites the web between her fingers and there is no way they can touch skin to skin, and the seat of her heart falls away and so does her resolve.” (pg. 6)

“Polly fixes her eyes on the Van Gogh painting. The first time she ever laid eyes on it, in a guidance counselor’s office, she thought it was magic: the way the painting was like a window, as if you could walk right into the scene. Just by looking at it, you were somewhere else… Polly’s seen the painting too many times. She can’t get the light in the painting to do what it used to.” (pg. 14-15)

“It’s a plan able to withstand early closing doors and a snarl of stairways, not the ocean of minutes that twelve years holds.” (pg. 20)

Something to remember us by.” (pg. 21)

“Of course she would see him tomorrow. Of course he would be waiting on the first floor of the Flagship, sitting in those bulbous burgundy armchairs, where he had a view of the door. Of course she would get there hours before he even formed the thought that she might not make it. And by tomorrow evening, this acid fear that she would never again see his face would have lasted less than a day.” (pg. 41)

The final quote listed serves as an accurate representation of Polly’s state of mind throughout the first few chapters of the novel; she stands on the edge of absolute panic and doom while grasping at the thin threads of hope. The repetition of the phrase “of course” demonstrates her attempts to keep her spirit alive during times of uncertainty. Despite this, the phrase comes off somewhere between sarcastic and reluctant, as if she’s already come to realize that nothing is or will be going as planned.

Literary Terms Expert: Josie Nunn

“Polly would like to breathe in the smell of Frank’s skin one last time, a smell like salt cut with something sweet, like when it rains in the city. (1)”

This sentence on the first page illustrates a sense of longing. It reminds me of the feeling when you’re a kid and your mom is leaving you at school, and although you know she will go, you still try to make that last attempt to cling to her familiar body. On the other hand, I don’t find the city smelling like something sweet at all. Maybe it’s just a Houston thing, but Downtown smells like grease, gasoline, and heavy, humid air.

“They ate the raisins slowly so they would last until the sun went down, chewing each juiceless bead until only threads remained between their teeth. (6)”

Polly and Frank in this sentence are trying to make something impermanent, permanent. Even before Polly had to leave, they were trying to avoid time travel. The unavoidable ticking forward of time. When Polly goes to the future, she only has lose memories of Frank left.

“The first time she ever laid eyes on it, in a guidance counselor’s office, she thought it was magic: the way the painting was like a window, as if you could walk right into the scene. (9)”

During this time, Polly is having an uncomfortable exchange with another woman in the room. In her mind, she is trying to escape the situation; we can also assume that Polly was trying to make a mental escape in the guidance counselor’s office (I mean who isn’t?). Her overall predicament in the TimeRaisers airport makes her incredibly wary and want to step through the painting.

“But the phone had no buttons, not on the front or the back, the receiver or the cradle. It was like a face without features. (26)”

Polly is now in an unknown time and place. Although she’s being directed on where to go, she in internally lost. For some reason when I read this sentence it reminded me of the fetal baby in Silent Hills. Also in that game is travel through time and space! Polly seemed like she was almost going through a dissociative episode, also known as an out-of-body experience. Not necessarily that she is looking at her body from an outside perspective, but the feeling that the things that are happening are very real and it makes you feel overstimulated. The kind of out-of-body experience that is caused by a panic attack.