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Time's Mouth


Time's Mouth

Does time travel always come with a catch? How could it not? Philosophers, physicists and writers have examined the ways in which time travel, if possible, would impact the travelers, the world and time itself. Though in fiction there is creativity in math and science, one can really play with time travel and consider implications, mechanics, ethics and emotions.

Edan Lepucki joins the ranks of time-travel explorers with her latest novel, TIME’S MOUTH. Spanning decades in a sun-drenched but often difficult California, it follows a family that confronts trauma and possesses a terrible and wondrous ability to move back in time while never really leaving the present.

"TIME’S MOUTH is a compelling story of family, loyalty, hurt and healing.... This is a shimmering novel, tackling some tricky questions about loneliness and self, power and love, memory and, of course, time."

Born in 1938, Sharon survives an awful childhood and begins to find freedom when her abusive father dies. She is 16 years old, and the relief she feels seems to manifest into an ability. The world around her dissolves, and she moves through time and space. A year later, she runs away from her home in Connecticut, leaving her mother no word. She heads to California where she changes her name to Ursa and begins a new life. She cultivates her skill and grows into the woman she wants to be with the help of two people. Karin sees something special in Ursa, and they become fast friends. Through Karin, she meets Charlie, with whom she falls in love. Their affair ends in heartbreak, but her friendship with Karin makes her the caretaker and resident of Karin’s isolated and magnificent family estate near Santa Cruz.

It is there that Ursa cultivates her powers as she gathers a group of vulnerable women and children around her. Her son, Ray, is born in that house, surrounded by --- but not part of --- the community of Ursa’s “mamas.” These women create rituals related to Ursa’s traveling, though they don’t understand precisely what she does. Ray grows up with a group of all but ignored children, including a girl named Cherry, who was abandoned as an infant but taken in by Ursa. Cherry acts as a caretaker to younger children and longs to be part of the world of mamas. Ray and Cherry fall in love, get pregnant, and run away from Ursa and her cult-like home. They hope to raise their baby far from the strangeness and deprivation they suffered.

The couple settles in Los Angeles, and Ray, a college graduate, adjusts to life in the greater world. Cherry, mostly on her own and afraid, does her best to tend to their infant daughter, Opal. But a strange series of events involving Opal, as well as her own fears and uncertainties, make Cherry feel like she has no choice but to leave Opal and Ray. Like Ursa and her own mother, Ruth, before her, Cherry abandons her family and disappears. Ray is heartbroken, but the scary episodes involving Opal seem to leave when Cherry does, so father and daughter do their best to make their way together.

Opal grows into a strong, confident young woman, but as a teen she starts to be able to travel (she calls it tunneling) the way that Ursa did. Now Opal must decide, as she moves back to earlier times in her life, if she wants to seek out Cherry. Her tunneling threatens her relationship with Ray and brings her face to face with the mighty and harmful power that Ursa still wields.

TIME’S MOUTH is a compelling story of family, loyalty, hurt and healing. Both Opal and Ray are interesting and well-drawn characters, and Cherry’s pain is so precisely and poignantly described. Lepucki’s magical realism is tied to the trees, rocks, sunlight, cityscapes and culture of California in fascinating ways. She occasionally veers toward unkind caricatures of some of the hurt women who gather around Ursa. But overall, her narrative is tightly constructed, her language is lovely, and the tensions are controlled and palpable. This is a shimmering novel, tackling some tricky questions about loneliness and self, power and love, memory and, of course, time.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on August 4, 2023

Time's Mouth
by Edan Lepucki

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint
  • ISBN-10: 1640095721
  • ISBN-13: 9781640095724