This tender, sweet story by Yoko Ogawa revolves around a housekeeper and the man for whom she cares: the professor, who has a memory of no longer than 80 minutes. After that time, his world essentially "resets". To accommodate for this seemingly problematic situtation, the professor pins a plethora of notes to his suits to remind him of things, including who the housekeeper is.
A mathematical genius, the professor exposes the housekeeper to a way of seeing the world she previously had not: through numbers and their meanings. In reacclimating himself to her each day (or each 80 minutes, in fact), he asks her questions about everything from shoe size to birthday to phone number. Then, he then assesses her world according to how those numbers "fit"--amicable numbers, prime numbers, etc. Her world has been a series of simplistic experiences and disappointments up until the time she meets the professor, and she realizes the interconnectedness of the world through numbers.
The only character named in the book is the housekeeper's son, whose nickname becomes Root when the professor likens his flat topped haircut to a square root symbol. The relationship between Root and the professor is forged through baseball, both the enjoyment of the game and the mathematics inherently within.
I ended up buying the book since it quickly became one of my all time favorites. Author Paul Auster, a well known fiction writer, commented that the story was "Highly original, infinitely charming, and ever so touching". I would agree.
The Housekeeper and the Professor