Antonia Hayes is an Australian novelist now living in San Francisco and Relativity is her debut novel. It's a book that explores, love, forgiveness, family and physics. It's a departure from my usual type of book as it's contemporary although there is an attempt at time travel. The book is about Ethan; an incredibly bright twelve year old boy with a passion for physics, his mum Claire a former ballerina and devoted single mum and his dad Mark who has reentered their lives for the first time since Ethan was a baby.
We learn early on that Ethan is a special child and that his brain works differently to other children, it seems he can see physics all around him, while Ethan is overjoyed at his savant abilities Claire knows that Ethan's brain is different because it's damaged and gradually it is revealed that Mark is no longer part of their lives because when Ethan was a baby he hurt him and Ethan's seizures and unusual brain activity are a result of shaken baby syndrome. Relativity is a powerful, compelling and emotional novel. All the more so because it is based on the author's own experiences. Antonia Hayes was just nineteen when she became a mum and when her baby was six weeks old he was a victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of his own father. There followed years of developmental delay and tests and Antonia's own struggles with PTSD before a move to Paris to live near her own mother saw Antonia address her literary ambitions. She took a workshop with Jeannette Winterson who advised her students to "write from the wound" and the result of that was a story and a meeting with a literary agent and once the book was ready there was a bidding war among all the major publishers. This book is deserving of any hype you may have heard it is beautifully written and incredibly compassionate. Perfect for fans of Matt Haig and Maggie O'Farrell.
Relativity is published by Corsair in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 19th.
Thanks to Clara Diaz for a copy.