No doubt Mitch Albom is a busy guy. The beloved author of “Tuesdays With Morrie” is also a Detroit-based columnist, radio host, playwright, songwriter and philanthropist. A schedule like that would make anyone think hard about the limits of time.
His new novel, “The Time Keeper,” is a fable about Dor, the inventor of the first clock.One of God’s helpers sentences Dor to 6,000 years of solitary confinement in a cave as a punishment for measuring time. (Fellow cubicle-workers: We’re doomed.) The Tower of Babel is also mixed up in this story, which, unfortunately, lacks the pathos and brevity of such tales as Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” At 224 pages, it’s about 180 too long for its plot.
Dor grew up in ancient Babylon, where he creates a water clock that allows him to calculate the hours. His childhood playmate Nim grows up to be a tyrant who wants to take over heaven. Generally, war-mongering despots, not gentle inventors, are the ones in need of locking up, but Albom chooses the narrative path less traveled.
In his cave, Dor can hear the anguished whispers of people pleading for more time, but he’s not allowed to do anything about it for thousands of years.
Cut to the present day, when a now-hirsute Dor is returned to the modern world as Father Time. He is tasked with teaching the importance of valuing life’s moments. Victor Delamonte,a wealthy man in his 80s, thinks cryonics might give him another shot at Earth’s merry-go-round. Sarah Lemon is a teenager contemplating suicide after a cyberbullying incident. Like Dor, Victor and Sarah are both guilty of the sin of not being grateful for the time they have. The book is an easy read, full of bolded entries and Albom’s trademark short sentences.
Time is precious. The good news is that readers can save themselves tens of valuable minutes by skipping this novel.
Albom, who has founded several charities, including “The Dream Fund,” “A Time to Help” and “S.A.Y. Detroit,” clearly knows how to improve each shining hour. But unless readers are rabid fans, they should stick to his nonfiction.
“Read the best books first,” advised Henry David Thoreau, “or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” Time’s a-wasting.
Zipp regularly reviews books for the Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post.