Physics guides us through this novel by Antonia Hayes. The chapters are titled appropriately – motion, time, space,entropy, light, inertia, acceleration, mass, electricity, black holes,energy, magnetism,matter, antimatter and gravity. Possibly I learnt more about physics from this book than I did at high school and although it dealt with complex matters I couldn’t put it down.
It is the coming of age story of a boy, Ethan, who I diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. I was wrong. Ethan who lives with his mother, Claire, has trouble with bullies at school because he is different. Ethan can see physics. We learn of an injury Ethan sustained as a baby which led, the doctors believed , to him being an acquired savant. When he meets his father,Mark, (who had been doing a pHD in physics) he finds that for the first time he fits in and can communicate. However, he also finds out some family secrets about their past and he, his mother and his father need physics to bind them together.
Relativity deals with love, family trauma, guilt, the issue of career vs motherhood, friendship and most importantly the need for forgiveness. The characters are so fully developed that we can relate to each one of them and through physics human reactions are understood and accepted and forgiven. We understand so well that, even for events we would condemn the perpetrator of should we read about it in the newspaper, here we see innocence and forgiveness. The writing is beautiful. An example is a conversation between the two parents: ” Ethan came from a place of love” she said.
He smiled. ” We were like a supernova. Burned brightly and collapsed, but for a brief moment, we did outshine the rest of the galaxy. Stellar explosions stream elements from their core and release energy into the universe. So Ethan is a child of the stars.”
Apart from the family drama their is also a beautifully described friendship between Ethan and Allison, a little girl who he met in hospital. The book is set in Sydney and the author is an Australia although she currently lives in the United States. It has left me thinking and it is a book that I would recommend is worthy of putting on your TBR list, somewhere near the top.