November 22, 2004

It's all oh so relative

After looking in several bookstores in California, I finally found here (and read) a copy of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s A Theory of Relativity that Rachel recommended a while back. It’s a story with so many changes resulting and continuing on from one catastrophic event, the accidental death of his sister Georgia and her husband Ray, that the title becomes evident, especially in the words of the main character, Gordon.

A high school science teacher, he tells his students:

“The science of genetics is like the theory of relativity in that there are so many detours and apparent contradictions that it’s difficult even for biologists… get their minds around it. ……….Even George Mendel, who was the father of what remains the basis of all genetics, ……….gave up in despair when what worked with yellow peas didn’t work with other plants which he tried the same method of hybridizing. He quit and became an administrator.”

In a previous conversation Gordon had with his now deceased brother-in-law Ray, the theory of relativity is further elaborated:

“Nothing,” Ray told Gordon, “was truly objectively measurable, because all things were made of particles and all particles were in a constant state of change……..Even this conversation is only real while we’re having it, and you’re having a different conversation from the one I’m having because you’re confused about relativity and I’m not; but you will remember it more clearly because you’re sober and I’m shitfaced……..And if you wrote it down it would be a third conversation, and if somebody read it, it would be a fourth conversation.”

“Even if I understand the words you’re saying, I don’t understand what they mean,” Gordon said. “And so this is a fifth conversation, a conversation that isn’t really a conversation because only one of us is having it.”

The body of the story centers around the body of the child, eighteen month old Keefer. At times it seems almost like the custody battle has nothing to do with the child until someone can quit talking and begin to understand the importance of the conversation that is labeled “the child.” It’s a good, thoughtful book.

Posted by leya at November 22, 2004 06:09 PM

I'm glad you enjoyed the book. I've been reading a lot of chick lit lately, so books like this one, or Jane Hamilton's are a nice change.

Posted by: Rachel at November 23, 2004 12:39 AM