Time travel and immigration intersect in Thea Lim's novel An Ocean of Minutes
Thea Lim is a Singaporean-Canadian novelist and short story writer. Her latest, An Ocean of Minutes, is a dystopian novel about love separated by time and the sacrifices made to preserve it. When a deadly flu sweeps through America, a man named Frank is stricken with the virus. His partner Polly takes on a job that will pay for his treatment, but the work is 12 years in the future and once she travels forward, she can't return. They agree to meet then, but Polly gets rerouted to the wrong year. The novel tracks her tumultuous journey to find him.
Paradox of time and space
"I wanted to use time travel as an analogy for immigration. I realised by setting an immigration story in an alternate past and in another world, it loosened that experience from particular historical constraints of our time. It could really look at the interior experience of displacement."
"I have a weird immigration story. I was born in Canada, and then reverse migrated with my family to Singapore. I say reverse migrated because we went to my father's country of origin. Then we moved back to Canada and I moved back to Singapore and then I moved to England.
"I've always related deeply to immigration narratives. But at the same time, my own immigration story didn't fit with a particular wave of ethnic migration. I didn't want to write a memoir. I didn't want to write about exactly what happened, as my story is so convoluted I think readers would get lost. I was interested in the experiences of immigration that cross ethnic boundaries."
Thea Lim's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
- French Exit by Patrick deWitt
- Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge
- Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
- Motherhood by Sheila Heti
- An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
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