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The Housekeeper and the Professorby Yoko Ogawa
Synopses & Reviews
He is a brilliant math professor, with a peculiar problem — since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young housekeeper with a ten-year-old son who is hired to care for him. And between them a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms. Though the professor can hold new memories for only eighty minuets, his mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past; and through him, the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the housekeeper and her son. 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 where one before did not exist.
"Ogawa (The Diving Pool) 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. Snyder — who also translated Pool — brings a delicate and precise hand to the translation." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Highly original. Infinitely charming. And ever so touching." Paul Auster
"Ogawa weaves a poignant tale of beauty, heart and sorrow in her exquisite new novel. . . .In this gorgeous tale, Ogawa lifts the window shade to allow readers to observe the characters for a short while, then closes the shade. [Translator Stephen] Snyder . . . brings a delicate and precise hand to the translation." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Gorgeous, cinematic . . . The Housekeeper and the Professor is a perfectly sustained novel . . . like a note prolonged, a fermata, a pause enabling us to peer intently into the lives of its characters. . . . This novel has all the charm and restraint of any by Ishiguro or Kenzaburo Oe and the whimsy of Murakami. The three lives connect like the vertices of a triangle." Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
"Deceptively elegant . . . This is one of those books written in such lucid, unpretentious language that reading it is like looking into a deep pool of clear water. But even in the clearest waters can lurk currents you don't see until you are in them. Dive into Yoko Ogawa's world . . . and you find yourself tugged by forces more felt than seen." Dennis Overbye, The New York Times Book Review
"Alive with mysteries both mathematical and personal, The Housekeeper and the Professor has the pared-down elegance of an equation." O, The Oprah Magazine
"This sweetly melancholy novel adheres to the Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in what is off-center, imperfect. . . . In treating one another with such warm concern and respect, the characters implicitly tell us something about the unforgiving society on the other side of the professor's cottage door. The Housekeeper and the Professor is a wisp of a book, but an affecting one." Amanda Heller, The Boston Globe
"Lovely . . . Ogawa's plot twists, her narrative pacing, her use of numbers to give meaning and mystery to life are as elegant in their way as the math principles the professor cites. . . . Ogawa's short novel is itself an equation concerning the intricate and intimate way we connect with others — and the lace of memory they sometimes leave us." Anthony Bukoski, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Ogawa's disarming exploration of an eccentric relationship reads like a fable, one that deftly balances whimsy with heartache." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] mysterious, suspenseful, and radiant fable . . . The smart and resourceful housekeeper, the single mother of a baseball-crazy 10-year-old boy the Professor adores, falls under the spell of the beautiful mathematical phenomena the Professor elucidates, as will the reader, and the three create an indivisible formula for love." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Ogawa's charming fable presents a stark contrast to the creepy novellas collected last year in The Diving Pool, but her strength as an engaging writer remains." Vikas Turahkia, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem — ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.
She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.
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 eighty minutes), the Professors 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 Housekeepers shoe size — and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.
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.
About the Author
Yoko Ogawa's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award.
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