In the four months since the small San Francisco-based MacAdam/Cage published Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, the Columbia College professor and visual artist has been on a carnival ride of publicity and acclaim. The Time Traveler's Wife was selected by the Today show as its book club pick for September, hit number nine on the New York Times best-seller list, and is now under development by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston's production company. On Thanksgiving Niffenegger shared a Toronto stage with Martin Amis, an honor she likened to opening for a rock star, but her wildly expansive love story has little in common with Amis's often pitch-black prose. The novel tracks the achronological course of the lifelong passion of Henry, a rakish Chicago librarian with a genetic tic that causes him to jump around in time involuntarily, and his wife, Clare. It takes as its starting point a classic romantic fantasy: to know what the boy you love will be like as a man. As Henry appears and disappears throughout Clare's life--he shows up at 40 when she's 17, at 32 when she's 24--the story comes to read as an extended metaphor for the mysteries of any intimate relationship. Niffenegger, a confident storyteller with impressive reach, draws dissolute bohemians, mad scientists, and benevolent drug dealers into an almost too-charmed universe, but she tempers the intoxicating sweetness with enough tragedy to keep the toothache at bay. Niffenegger reads on Thursday, January 8, at 7:30 PM at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299.