The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

housekeeper-and-the-professorThis lovely jewel of a novel, set in Japan, explores the power of memory and how it shapes our lives, and how love and friendship can transcend hardship and loss.

The Professor is a brilliant mathematician, able to describe and demonstrate the most complex formulas into something simple and poetic and beautiful, but due to a traumatic head injury his short-term memory lasts only 80 minutes. The Professor spends his days in his study, working on difficult mathematics problems; everything before that fateful night in 1975 still clear and real to him, everything else more than 80 minutes old, new and confusing.

The Housekeeper, a struggling single mother, is assigned to care for him. Gradually they make a connection – the Professor pins multiple notes to his coat to help him cope with his handicap – and the Housekeeper’s young son often joins them. The Professor shares his love of numbers with them and joins the boy in his love of baseball.¬† Together the three form an unconventional family.

Thoughtful, poignant and bittersweet, this spare, elegant novel will stay with you long after you’ve finished.