In the Fullness of Time – Reading Women 2019

This post is part of a series on reading women 2019 hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s Narrative Designer, Dan Michael Fielding.

In the Fullness of Time is a book about time travel–sort of. It’s also a book about detective work–sort of. It’s also about family, and technology, and generational trauma, and romance–sort of.

Are you beginning to sense a theme?

The cover of In the Fullness of Time by Kate Wilhelm

The edition of In the Fullness of Time I read was an audiobook narrated by Marguerite Gavin. I haven’t listened to many audiobooks, but this was a pleasant experience. Gavin does wonderful voice work that adds depth and breadth to Wilhelm’s characters. The way she speaks also adds a lot of drama to what could have otherwise been an unfortunately flat book.

I mentioned in the local author challenge prompt that I’ve read a few books by Wilhelm before. My favorite from her is Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, a post-apocalyptic exploration of cloning, family, and identity. I could see a lot of similar themes that she explores in Sweet Birds coming out in In the Fullness as well. Wilhelm seemed to enjoy thinking through generational family trauma, and I only wish she would have explored those aspects in more depth.

In the Fullness is a novella, so it was never going to have a complete exploration of all the themes it brings up. But I still found myself a little disappointed by the level of attention paid to the most interesting parts of the story.

Take, for example, Wilhelm’s excellent ability to set the tone of the scene. Several times throughout the book she uses descriptions of the weather to set the tone of conversations the characters are having with one another. Storms brew, clouds overwhelm, sun shines…all of this emphasizes the internal emotions of her characters. Which is excellent! But when it comes to the climax of her story we get none of this description. The climax happens off screen and is related to the point of view character later.

I was also disappointed with her exploration of the main conflict of the story: all the time travel. She has a very interesting premise going with the idea of inheritable time travel, and all the problems that would come about mentally, physically, emotionally, and relationally if you can’t control it, but these problems aren’t really explored fully. The reader knows enough to know something has to be done about it, but not quite enough to understand the full consequences.

Everything in the book is only sort of dealt with. And it isn’t as though she didn’t have the space to think through more of the themes. There’s an entire B-plot with the narrator and her on-again-off-again boyfriend that could have been dropped without changing any of the plot or character development. That space would have been better used to explore some of the relationships between other characters, or to think through the consequences of time travel.

Overall, I think Sweet Birds still holds its place as my favorite Wilhelm book. I don’t regret reading In the Fullness, I just wish she’d done a bit more with the premise she set up.

Which local author did you read for this challenge? Did you discover anyone new, or perhaps revisit an old favorite author?

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