This 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.
Alzheimer’s. It’s a disease most of us would rather not think about, much less read about. Still, I’ve just finished reading a lovely book entitled Measure of the Heart: A Father’s Alzheimer’s, A Daughter’s Return by Mary Ellen Geist. Perhaps I was drawn to it because my own mother had Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the black and white photo on the cover brought back memories of me walking with my mom. Still, I approached it with a degree of ambivalence. Did I really want to read this and risk drudging up a very sad time? Well, I’m glad I did. It was not at all depressing, but rather a touching and tender tribute, reinforcing my own experience that caring for our loved ones can be both and a blessing and a privilege.
As I watch the leaves fall to the ground, it seems appropriate that November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. If you’re interested in learning more about this affliction, I would recommend The 36-Hour Day by Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins, currently in its 4th edition. This is a virtual bible for caregivers, and one I relied upon heavily.
Another interesting read is Voices of Alzheimer’s, The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength, a compilation of personal anecdotes and experiences, edited by The Healing Project.