Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
The Housekeeper and
by Yoko Ogawa, Picador, 2009
Reviewed by Eloise Sureau-Hale
This is the story of a most unusual
encounter. A young Japanese single mother who works as a
housekeeper is sent by her agency to take care of an elderly man.
The victim of a terrible car accident, he is unable to remember
more than 80 minutes at a time. Every day starts anew for the
housekeeper who must take great care not to shatter the old man's
illusion of belonging to a past that is long gone.
The old professor of mathematics welcomes the housekeeper as a
stranger every day, relying on pictures and pieces of scribbled
information pinned on his jacket for keepsake. As the professor
openly shares his passion for numbers, the housekeeper slowly
learns to speak the language of mathematics, a common tongue
between people living in two completely different worlds.
Little by little, a friendship develops between the housekeeper
who brings balance in the old man's life, the professor whose life
is governed by numbers, and the housekeeper's young son that the
old man nicknames Root and loves like a grandson.
Set in the early 1990's Japan and told from the perspective of
the housekeeper long after the events took place, as the story
unfolds it grips the reader with its impeccable description of the
agony of living life one hour at a time, both for the person
entrapped in this inferno, and for those around him. Yet, it is not
a sad tale.
Those who have enjoyed novels like Still Alice by Lisa Genova
and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry will delight in The
Housekeeper and the Professor.
- Eloise Sureau-Hale is associate professor of French at Butler