Portland writer Mo Daviau’s new novel, “Every Anxious Wave,” grew out of her cocktail-party ice-breaker: “If you could go back in time and see any rock show, what would you choose?”
That little gem is the seed of the central conceit in “Every Anxious Wave,” a light but heavy love story about dive-bar owner Karl Bender, who discovers a time warp in the back of his closet. One of Karl’s first moves is to sell trips through the wormhole to history’s most epic rock shows — and to accidentally send his friend Wayne to the year 980 instead of 1980.
Enter Love, stage left, the only force more warpy and weird than Time. The physicist hired by Karl to help rescue Wayne is a woman named Lena, with whom he shares a passion for music and, eventually, a relationship. Like the novel as a whole, their entanglement is fun, funny and suffused with 90s indie rock — but it hits deeper notes as well. Lena, who survived a rape, could undo it with time travel, expunging a profound and formative trauma. But where would that leave Karl, the man who fell in love with her as she was?
“It was a very deliberate choice to write a feminist novel told through the eyes of a male protagonist,” Daviau explains. “Lena doesn’t come along to heal or save Karl in the usual way that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope would come along and be the savior. He is her savior in a way.”
In the writer’s own life, traumatic incidents have shaped her and, she admits, her debut novel as well. Just as “Every Anxious Wave” was nearing the finish line, Daviau was dealing with the breakup and aftermath of an emotionally abusive relationship. Since then, she has written several pieces on emotional abuse, including “You Are Not Special,” a dead letter to the woman that her abusive ex-boyfriend left her for.
“The message in that [piece] is that once you see that we [women] are all the same, you will not fall for this stuff anymore,” Daviau says. “Women need to unionize a little bit when it comes to dating and relationships because we do a lot of work for these men!”
“Every Anxious Wave” is out now, and you can find not one, but three associated playlists on Spotify, one of which was composed by the author. It’s a wormhole to the Gen X-er’s heart and perfect music to read a time-traveling love story by.