This is a perfect little book for a high school student. It has a little bit of everything in it: a clear cut sense of right and wrong, exposure to a culture different from mainstream American (I am pretty mainstream American), precocious kids, and lovable and loving older people.
It’s like a mix between Memento and A Beautiful Mind and a very one-sided version of Rashomon.
Ok, not so much the last one, because instead, there’s not a lot of remembering going on. More so than anything, the tone of this novel reminded me of something by Nick Hornby more than something more serious and dour.
This novel is about a housekeeper with a young son who is hired to work with a math professor who was injured in a car wreck decades earlier and who has only 80 minutes of memory as a result. She brings her young son with her to work and helps the professor with his day to day activities, but also with a system for collecting and building upon his academic career.
Throughout the novel is a lot of different equations, mathematical proofs, and charming dissertations of how math influences and builds the world around us. It’s not an overly sentimental novel, but it is a charming and touching one.
I was thinking about this as a great novel for teenagers for a lot of reasons. It asks the reader to consider a worldview and life experience wholly different from their own. It does so also without playing a kind of suffering porn. So the professor is definitely suffering, but not in a common or too on the nose kind of way. And he’s not dying and he’s not depressed, and he’s not mean about it. He’s just trying to make the most of it and has such a zeal and love of life that it’s not that sad.
Also students are taught about the joy of learning. Also many students hate that so much cultural production is ambiguous in its meaning. Having a book teach them that regardless of human behavior, the greater universe is controlled by principles of governance is such a relief that they can just enjoy this one. Like Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, students who might not otherwise love novels can see how their own brains function in an artistic output.