Last week’s book club book was The Housekeeper and the Professor. Taking place in Japan, it is the very sweet story of a math professor who, due to a brain injury, has a short term memory of only 80 minutes (and a long term memory that ends on the day of his accident) and the housekeeper who is hired to take care of him. After the housekeeper begins work at the professor’s, he learns she has a young son (called Root). After school, root is left alone while his mother cares for the professor. The professor has a love of children and insists Root joins his mother after school each day. From there, an odd but genuine friendship begins to evolve.
Although the professor suffers from memory loss, he is a brilliant mathematician. He thinks almost exclusively about numbers – the study of, their theory, and their relationship with each other. Math becomes the center of the household and, in turn, the relationship between the three characters. Both Root and his mother are eager to learn from the Professor, who, due to his love of math, inspires them to see the beauty of numbers and how they connect to the world around them.
On a side note, throughout the short book, a few of us expected the relationship between the Housekeeper and the Professor to take a romantic turn. The person who choose this book was the same one who chose Fifty Shades of Grey a year ago, so there may have been an expectation. I so rarely read a book anymore that doesn’t have in-your-face drama and/or conflict in it. Some of the book-clubbers didn’t care for it, but I liked it. It was a nice story.
The book got me thinking about math. Throughout school, math was the bane of my existence. It was hard, and I developed a bit of a mental block about all the way into college. Even worse, my dad was a math teacher. Reading and writing were always a piece of cake while math and science were usually a struggle. Now, as a teacher myself, math curriculum is what I enjoy teaching most, granted it’s only 2nd grade curriculum but still. I find that my bag of tricks is fuller with math strategies than any other curricula. I’ve always heard that the more you struggle with how to do something the better you are at explaining it. Which would make a lot of sense.
The Professor in the book truly loved math and his teaching of some of the most difficult concepts was so beautifully done even I understood what he was going on about. Due to past experiences, that surprised me which I think made me like the book even more.