Time After Time

Written by Lisa Grunwald
Review by Jessica Brockmole

Every year on December fifth, the sun aligns with Manhattan’s street grid and the light of the rising and setting sun is funneled between the buildings, a phenomenon known as “Manhattanhenge.” On December 5th, 1925, 23-year-old Nora Lansing, caught in a railway accident at Grand Central Terminal, dies on the Main Concourse as the light from Manhattanhenge streams through the three main windows. She returns to the concourse—not ghostlike, but solid, corporeal, visible—every year afterwards, but only on the fifth of December at 7:05 a.m., disappearing if she goes beyond the bounds of the terminal. In 1937, railway leverman Joe Reynolds meets her under the terminal’s famous clock, and they fall improbably in love. Together they investigate the parameters of her peculiar extended life and how to have the semblance of a normal relationship within the confines of the terminal. But their relationship is fraught with difficulties: Nora’s agelessness, Joe’s family obligations, and, of course, the fragility of Nora’s surprising existence. As the outside world begins to tug more insistently on Joe, they struggle to hold on to the precarious life they’ve built for themselves inside Grand Central Terminal.

Grunwald crafts a delightful and engaging love story that unfurls alongside the fascinating history of Grand Central Terminal. Through Nora and Joe and the hum of the terminal, Grunwald offers snapshots of New York City, from the devil-may-care whirl of the Twenties to the bleakness of the Great Depression, from the anxious energy of wartime to the hopefulness of the postwar years. Despite the fantastical nature of Nora’s life, Grunwald never allows the supernatural to overpower the characters, their story, or the history swirling around them. Their love flourishes irrespective of time. Recommended.