An Ocean of Minutes

A Novel

An Ocean of Minutes

A “Best Book of 2018” —Real Simple

“Lim’s steady prose and deft character development ensured that I was hooked on Polly’s story from beginning to end. [F]ull of fascinating social commentary on class differences, racism and’s easy to fall into this novel and become emotionally involved in Polly’s journey and her search to find the people she loves.” —Los Angeles Times

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Station Eleven, a sweeping literary love story about two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart.

America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. 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 laborer, 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.

An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story about the endurance and complexity of human relationships and the cost of holding onto the past—and the price of letting it go.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501192555 | 
  • July 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for An Ocean of Minutes includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Thea Lim. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In 1981, a vicious strain of the flu virus has swept across America and the only treatment available costs more than many can afford. With the advent of time travel, there is the option of traveling to the future as a migrant worker, to pay for a loved one’s treatment. When Polly’s boyfriend Frank becomes sick, Polly is willing to do anything to save him, and agrees to travel to Texas in 1993 to work for his cure.

While Frank and Polly plan to meet each other, and pick up where they left off, when Polly arrives, Frank is nowhere to be found. Polly learns she has been rerouted to 1998, and finds a world drastically different from her own. With no friends or family, no money, and no citizen status, Polly is indentured by TimeRaiser, the company who recruited her, until she can pay off her debt. But Polly will do anything to find Frank and build the future they’d imagined, rather than the one she’s found.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. At the start of the novel, we join a 23-ye see more

About the Author

Thea Lim
Photo by Elisha Lim, Copy right Thea Lim

Thea Lim

Thea Lim’s writing has appeared in publications including the Southampton Review, the Guardian, The Millions, Salon, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Houston, and she has received multiple awards and fellowships for her work, including artists’ grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.  She grew up in Singapore and now lives in Toronto with her family.