An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

I started reading this book thinking that it would be another immigrant story, but when I started it was about time travel. However, thinking about it a little bit more, I can definitely say for sure that this book is about immigration. It’s just not the kind of immigration that you’re thinking.

Here’s more about the book

36622743America is in the grip of a deadly flu. When Frank gets sick, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him. She agrees to a radical plan—time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded labourer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.

I had to sit with myself after reading this one. At first, I thought it was another immigrant’s story. I thought it would be about some family coming to this country and making the best life they could. Then, I started reading and saw it was more dystopian with a little science fiction where people are traveling to the future to help save themselves and their loved ones from a pandemic threatening to kill everyone.

But now that I’ve finished the book and sat down with it, I realized that this is an immigrant story. When Polly wakes up in the future, she wakes up in 1998 rather than the designated 1993 like she was told. She learns that the United States are divided and the Southwest is basically a whole separate country. Because she’s a “journeyman,” she’s not technically a citizen of the United States or of America (the new territory in the Southwest).

On top of all that, she needs to work back all the money spent to get her to 1993. Since she has a speciality as a vintage furniture restorer, she’s able to have a pretty nice job with a decent place to live. However, many people who travel into the future end up working low-paying jobs and living in those shipping containers you find at the docks. They have jobs like pedaling stationary bikes to air condition an entire beach resort.

She’s treated completely differently. I thought that this was an after-effect of the dystopian universe Thea Lim was creating, but the truth was that this is the life many immigrants live once they reach America. It’s not all the glamour and fame you see in the news, but hardworking people straining themselves daily just to make a little bit of money. I even think she starts paying off her bond at $6 an hour, which is lower than the current minimum wage.

And you see hints that as a “Journeyman,” she’s treated differently. When she had a specialized job, she was treated like a white person. When she was transferred to a lowlier position, people started talking to her in Spanish automatically assuming that because she had a lower position that she was Hispanic or Latina. If that isn’t a blatant comment on the state of many lower-class families, then we must read even further between the lines.

Let’s talk about how Polly also married someone who is American. She marries this person in order to live in a nice house, get a little stipend, have some of her bond paid off, and if they have kids, then it’s double bonuses on the cash for the both of them. It was like reading the news of a couple who married just to get a green card. It’s the familiar story of some friends too.

There’s so many metaphors in this book. The entire book is a metaphor and I thought that it might be a little too difficult for the casual reader to grasp all at once. Like me, they could possibly fall into the trap of this being another science fiction story or another romance and not getting into the deeper meaning. That could be confusing to many readers and might make you like the book less. Thankfully I took the time to think about what I read and noticed that these metaphors all feel similar to the experiences many immigrants have when coming to America.

Now there’s also the story of Frank and Polly. When I was reading this, I thought this would eventually turn into a love story between the two. However, the love story felt like an afterthought and thrown together in the very end of the book. I didn’t like this for that reason. I wanted to see what happened with Frank and what his feelings were about Polly. I wanted to know whether or not Frank died, but in comparison to the rest of the story it fell sort of flat for me.

However, I would recommend this read especially if you’re feeling what everyone else has been feeling about America lately. It’ll give you some perspective and make you wonder and if you’re having some trouble with the metaphors, hit this review up.

I received a copy of this book from Touchstone for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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