September 08, 2003 12:00 PM

By Audrey Niffenegger

Librarian Henry DeTamble is a great husband whose skills, including beating people up and picking pockets, don’t always come in handy at his day job. But they can be useful, considering that one minute he’s stocking shelves in Chicago in 1991 and the next he’s naked in Muncie, Ind., in 1973. As for his wife, Clare, “We are often insane with happiness. We are also very unhappy for reasons neither of us can do anything about.” That’s because Henry can’t control his time travel; in Niffenegger’s mind-bending world, it’s a strain on their marriage as he keeps disappearing and popping up (sans clothes) at random stages of her life, including when she’s 6 and doesn’t know he’s her future husband. As Clare and Henry take turns telling the story, revealing the depth of their bond despite everything, a sci-fi premise becomes a powerfully original love story. (MacAdam/Cage, $25)

BOTTOM LINE: Amazing trip

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