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Numbers and Memory   Leave a comment

Imagine if the movies 50 First Dates and Groundhog Day meet the book The Curious Incident
of the Dog in the Night Time
and you’re close to the idea of The Housekeeper and The Professor
by Yoko Ogawa.This a pleasant story about friendship, familial love, and math – yes math, and
I am not a math person. None of the characters has what could be construed as a birth name: the
professor and the housekeeper are known by those monikers, while the housekeeper’s son is given
the nickname “Root” (which is far less cumbersome than being called the housekeeper’s son). A
fourth character is the professor’s sister-in-law.

The professor suffered a brain injury years before the story begins and lives each day with only
80 minutes of short-term memory. Each day literally, and figuratively, starts anew. To keep himself
from being completely shocked the next day, the professor attaches notes to his suit to help him
keep track of such details as, say, the housekeeper’s existence. In spite of his debilitation, the
professor is a mathematical genius, and he shares his enthusiasm for numbers with the housekeeper
and her son. The three, it turns out, also share a passion for baseball.

Ogawa demonstrates math truly is a language. The characters embrace its nuances and complexities
to master it with grace and apply it to another challenging concept: platonic love. Even so, the
sparse writing is a distraction. That, however, could be more a cultural difference than anything.

Three Bookmarks

180 pages
Picador, 2008

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Posted November 3, 2011 by bluepagespecial in Books

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