Saturday, August 15, 2009
The Housekeeper and the Professor
Ali very kindly brought me this book when she was visiting the Central Coast. It’s one I’d seen around and the premise sounded intriguing.
From Publishers Weekly:
Ogawa weaves a poignant tale of beauty, heart and sorrow in her exquisite new novel. Narrated by the Housekeeper, the characters are known only as the Professor and Root, the Housekeeper’s 10-year-old son, nicknamed by the Professor because the shape of his hair and head remind the Professor of the square root symbol. A brilliant mathematician, the Professor was seriously injured in a car accident and his short-term memory only lasts for 80 minutes. He can remember his theorems and favorite baseball players, but the Housekeeper must reintroduce herself every morning, sometimes several times a day. The Professor, who adores Root, is able to connect with the child through baseball, and the Housekeeper learns how to work with him through the memory lapses until they can come together on common ground, at least for 80 minutes. In this gorgeous tale, Ogawa lifts the window shade to allow readers to observe the characters for a short while, then closes the shade.
I don’t even like math, and I liked this book. The author weaves in interesting mathematical concepts, such as amicable numbers. And then she relates it to the characters. While I don’t necessary remember anything that I learned, I did find it fascinating at the time. Ogawa personalizes math, and uses it as a bridge between two disparate people.
The story itself is haunting. The Professor is such a lonely character, and the Housekeeper and Root end up becoming a sort of family for him, and vice versa. It is clear they all care for each other, despite the limitations placed upon them by 80 minutes of memory.
Anyways…I can’t thank Ali enough for sharing this little gem with me. And I want to pass on the book love, so leave a comment letting me know if you’re interested in this book. I’ll pick a winner tomorrow.