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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"Ogawa weaves a poignant tale of beauty, heart, and sorrow in her exquisite new novel." ( Publishers Weekly)

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What listeners say about The Housekeeper and the Professor

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Wonder Of Kindness & Connection

It is difficult to capture and convey the true essence of this magical novel in a review. The story revolves around and explores concepts of memory, mathematics and human connection. It is about acceptance and kindness. More than this, this gentle story reminds the reader that life is an opportunity for celebration. It's about finding meaning in small things, seeing with new eyes and learning concepts you thought you might never understand.

The book was expertly narrated by Cassandra Campbell who was deftly able to capture the subtle nuances of the writing. Her timing and use of pauses, inflection and quietness were perfect.

To me, this was a beautifully written, insightful and compelling novel. At times sad, but filled with possibility and hope. I loved it.

39 people found this helpful

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  • AM
  • 08-28-13

For the joy of a story

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.

7 people found this helpful

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This is a Gem! Well worth a Listen.

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.

10 people found this helpful

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Sweet enduring inserting story

This is a gem. A feel good story and the book makes you look at math philosophically.
This would be one of my top books and it is the type of book that reminds me of Bel Canto in the way you fall in love with the interesting characters

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Not much happiness but if you like mathematics...

There is a gentle beauty to much of this book, infusing mathematics and Japanese baseball with grandeur. And while I didn’t dislike the book, I’d never recommend it to anyone. My own cultural ignorance may be related to my lukewarm feeling — emotions are not expressed so actions that might push the story forward are not pursued and melancholy blooms.

Because there is so little action, I couldn't help but be nagged by one of my pet peeves: The main female character has no interests of her own and only finds joy in life when living through the pleasures of the males around her. Still, I'll think about the book often as I recall amicable numbers and the strange relationship between 220 and 284.

Bechdel test: Fail — there are two female characters who speak but they don’t speak about anything other than a man.

Overall grade: B

Perfect narration.

2 people found this helpful

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The Most Beautiful Novel...

I have read in a long time! Sheer poetry from start to finish! Please more from this author!

4 people found this helpful

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  • k
  • 08-18-16

Charming exploration of math, memory and love

This is a lovely little story. It made number theory seem appealing with discussions of amicable, perfect and prime numbers. It surprised me by revealing a baseball culture in Japan that is so similar to US culture. It made me muse on how much my memories impact my daily living and what it would be like to remember only the last 80 minutes. I was most impressed by the exploration of love between an aged professor, a young mother and her son.

It was definitely worth the credit.

1 person found this helpful

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simple. sweet. math.

The story is simple and sweet. If you like math, this might be a fun read for you. I actually learned a thing or two. The narration was leisurely and spot-on. However, there were a few elements of the book that just didn't seem true and left me wanting.

1 person found this helpful

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I Remember You

What a sweet, engaging story. I have read of this memory affliction, but have never seen it handled so well, both by the central figure and by his/her immediate circle of family and caregivers. The narrator is perfect for this book.

1 person found this helpful

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Beautifully written, perfectly performed.

If you could sum up The Housekeeper and the Professor in three words, what would they be?

Intelligent, cozy, tranquility

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Housekeeper and the Professor?

So many. The descriptions of The Housekeeper preparing food is a masterpiece in itself.

What about Cassandra Campbell’s performance did you like?

Her soothing voice is medicine for the soul.

Any additional comments?

I loved every second of this book. Thank you so much!

3 people found this helpful