He is a brilliant math professor with a peculiar problem - ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only 80 minutes of short-term memory.
She is an astute young housekeeper - with a 10-year-old son-who is hired to care for the professor. And every morning, as the professor and the housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every 80 minutes), the professor's mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the housekeeper and her young son. The professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities - like the housekeeper's shoe size - and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.
Yoko Ogawa's The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.
©2003 Yoko Ogawa. Translation Copyright 2009 by Stephen Snyder. (P)2013 Tantor
"Ogawa weaves a poignant tale of beauty, heart, and sorrow in her exquisite new novel." (Publishers Weekly)
An unexpected delight! A thoughtful story about a young housekeeper who goes to work for a medically retired mathematics professor whose short-term memory only lasts 80 minutes. Everyday she comes to work is the first time her employer has met her. Intelligent and sensitive, but not highly educated, the housekeeper comes to learn about his quirks and shortcomings, and develops a great appreciation for his intelligence and love of prime numbers. Her esteem for him only increases when he lovingly showers attention on her 10 year old son.
Along the way, the listener learns about number theory, baseball in Japan, the struggles of a single mother, and how one man's remarkable intelligence and sensitivity have survived a terrible accident. Told from the first person perspective of the housekeeper, this book is warm, honest, and interesting, with no sentimentality. The narration is perfect and Campbell does a great job of giving voice to the young housekeeper.
A poetic elegy to the interrelated beauty of relationships: the human, the quantitative, the heart and the sport. Both precise and artistic, this book had a perfect story arc from beginning to end. A must-read.
Another reviewer said it well, this story won't be made into a blockbuster movie HOWEVER if you simply want to be captivated by a story, this may be a tale you will love. There are hints of heartbreak but the story isn't about romantic love, it's about the formation of unlikely friendships and how "family" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. If you ever wanted to truly understand what it means to live in the present, this book will give you a vibrant example.
In short, this story was a respite from busy-ness (misspelling intentional) and a joy.
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