Every Anxious Wave: A Novel, by Mo Daviau

Karl Bender is a former guitarist for the band Axis. Axis no longer exists but its lead singer/songwriter had a fascination for full-figured women and drew a fan base filled with plump women happy to be sung about in loving and erotic terms.

The band has retired and Karl now owns a bar in Chicago. While looking through his apartment for a favorite boot he crawls into a closet and falls through a wormhole that takes him to a time in his past. When his cell phone rings he’s immediately brought back home.

Karl tells best friend Wayne, a computer specialist, about the wormhole and Wayne works out a computer program that lets them choose a time and coordinates. With this they begin visiting great concerts that they loved or had always wished they could see. But one day Karl drops a 1 from a date to send Wayne to New York City to prevent John Lennon’s murder. Instead of sending him to 1980 Wayne goes to 980. Two things are needed to bring someone back, a cell phone and a source of electrical power. Wayne has gone back to a time and place where the electricity doesn’t exist.

Karl realizes that he needs a physicist and eventually convinces overweight physics student Lena Geduldig to help. Lena is not only a fan for the same kind of music but she was also a long-time fan of Karl’s old band. Their meeting opens a new relationship for both of them as they try to rescue Wayne.

As a science fiction book there are purists who would tear their hair out at some of the things included that break many of the time travel rules and conventions. Characters go back in time and not only see themselves but interact. Somehow those traveling back in time with cell phones are able to text back to the present. Daviau was able to get around the 980 problem by sending Wayne back with a solar charger.

That said, give it all up because the story overwhelms all that. Lena is one of the most solidly fleshed out female characters I’ve read in a long time. She’s a woman who has faced horrible challenges and tragedies, from losing a mother to cancer during her early teens to rape. Daviau writes a painfully realistic portrait of someone whose past manages to torture her present. Karl loves her almost instantly but Lena reacts with distrust, anger, brittle reactions, and dysfunctions. It’s a relationship that causes stress and pain for both characters which sends them both back to different spots on their timelines to try to repair past traumas.

Inside the book’s universe it ends up creating an incredible story with humor, a difficult romance, and one of those rare true characters who never seems to act the way you hope but with her own will.

Once I gave up my sci-fi prejudices to enjoy the story it pulled me along through every bump and roadblock. I’ve added this one to my “book club worthy” list because it’s the kind of book that demands conversation when you’re done.