The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Published February 2009 by Picador Books
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 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.
I received this book from Picador so that I could participate in an online book discussion. Almost from the beginning the book starts delving into mathematics and far from being put off by this (I never really cared much for math), I found it fascinating. I kept thinking throughout the book that I might have enjoyed math much more if it had been presented to me by the Professor. The prose here is simple, the cast of characters small, the story charming. Stephen Snyder's translation from Ogawa's Japanese retains both the beauty and the Japanese flavor. I was pulled through this book in a day (okay, it is a relatively short book, but still it's an accomplishment for me). The relationship that developed between the housekeeper and the professor was so touching; the reader will so wish that they could be more to each other. The Washington Post called the book "strangely charming" and I would agree.
Care's Online Book Club (http://bkclubcare.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/review-the-housekeeper-and-the-professor/) says what's good about this book is: "The character development. The tender endearing respect between all the characters. The easy explanations of interesting* mathematical concepts. The layering and weaving together of appreciation for education and children, love of baseball, and how a work situation can foster a unique friendship." On this we agree and I think I can safely speak for both of us when I recommend you read 'The Housekeeper and The Professor." It remains one of my top five for the year.