- Book: An Ocean of Minutes
- Location: Galveston
- Author: Thea Lim
It is 1978 and Polly and Frank have just met. It looks as if this romantic relationship will offer a lifetime of happiness to bereaved Polly, but then a deadly virus strikes the world and Frank falls foul of it. The couple don’t have the funds to pay for his treatment and so Polly agrees to a drastic course of action; to time travel for the company that will, in return, fund Frank’s life-saving treatment. It is not clear why the company want people to time travel forward in time but, in despair, Polly agrees to move twelve years forward in time to 1993 when the flu pandemic has been beaten. The rules are that you can only move forward in time, not back, and that you have to leave everyone behind you, but Frank and Polly plan to meet in 1993 at The Flagship Motel in Galveston, a place that holds special memories for them. When she arrives in 1993, he will be there waiting for her. True, he will be twelve years older, but she will still be young – they will be able to have the family together that they planned. But when Polly arrives in Galveston, it is to discover that she has been rerouted in time. It is 1998. She is five years too late to meet Frank.
You could hardly call An Ocean of Minutes a cheerful read. It offers the reader an unrelentingly depressing view of relationships, of people, and of society in general but it is undoubtedly thought provoking and shines a light on modern slavery and on the plight of migrants generally in today’s world. Lim manages, through the account of Polly’s experiences, to allow the reader to experience the horror of arriving in a strange place where you know no one, don’t understand the rules of society and where no one is trustworthy.
I have to say that I found the whole time-travel concept the weakest link in this novel; it’s difficult to get your head around the fact that Polly moves forward in time to a period that is still in our past although completely unrecognisable. Most of the novel is set in 1998 Galveston and Lim creates a very vivid and detailed picture of life in this post-pandemic brutal society, bringing to mind some of the scenes from Orwell’s 1984. Polly’s story keeps you turning pages, the characters are well crafted and the relationship between Polly and Frank at the beginning of the novel is sensitively explored. An Ocean of Minutes is gripping stuff, likely to give you nightmares, but hard to put down.