Considering how unlikely I think time travel to be, it’s odd how much I love the genre. I usually prefer they don’t bother getting into the weeds of figuring out a real way to travel in time, so portals that exist just because are fine with me. Diane Chamberlain’s The Dream Daughter is the kind of time travel that doesn’t bother with the mechanics so we can focus on the story and that story is compelling and deeply humane.
The story starts in 1965 when Carly is starting out as a physical therapist who is assigned a problematic patient with an uncanny knowledge of Beatles’ lyrics. She thinks he’s perfect for her sister, so when we jump forward five years, it’s no surprise to see Hunter has indeed married her sister. Carly married her sweetheart Joe who died in Vietnam. She’s pregnant with Joe’s child and learns the baby has a heart defect that means certain death. Hunter reveals his big secret, he’s from the future and he can send her forward to 2001, where they can perform fetal heart surgery and possibly save her daughter’s life. And so she takes the leap, quite literally.
Of course, the story gets complicated and Carly is faced with difficult choices that are shatteringly painful. And if you can get to the end without crying, there’s something wrong with you.
There are so many reasons to love The Dream Daughter I almost hate to bring up a very irritating problem. The central complication is Hunter didn’t provide Carly enough return portals. It seems such an unlikely error, but even so, there were months and months that Hunter’s mom was available and who could have figured out a dozen more to see her through. Particularly when the last time they saw each other, they both knew she had just one left. Of course, without this inexplicable failure of two brilliant scientists, then the entire story would be very short, would lack the fraught choices, and not be nearly as interesting.
I received advanced reading copies of The Dream Daughter from the publisher through NetGalley and a Shelf Awareness drawing.