Relativity -- Antonia Hayes
It’s another week with another review of a debut novelist. I guess I am expanding my old favorites to new favorites as I just finished Relativity by Antonia Hayes. Again, this is another book built on the deep, well-written characters that drive the action. I enjoy finding new authors to read, and possibly follow throughout their careers.
Relativity is the story of Ethan Forsythe, a twelve-year-old boy living in Sydney, Australia. He is a special child, with an affinity for physics. He comes from a broken home. He lives with his mother, Claire, while his father, convicted of shaking Ethan as a baby, lives on the other side of the country. In fact, since the incident as a baby, he has not seen his father, Mark.
After an altercation at school, Ethan has an episode that lands him in the hospital. It is there that he learns the truth behind his childhood and the disappearance of his father in his life. It is believed that the scarring from his earlier accident has affected his brain so that he can see the physics that he loves so much.
While Ethan is going through all this, Mark’s father dies. This brings Mark back into Claire’s and Ethan’s lives. All the lingering feelings of love and hate bubble to the surface between Claire and Mark. Ethan finally gets to meet his father and start a relationship with him. Throughout all the emotional turmoil, Ethan’s condition takes a drastic turn after he experiments with some questionable physics.
This novel is told from three distinct points of view. We see the world through Ethan’s eyes, and we get snippets of the past from the point of view of both Claire and Mark. Melded together, these points of view create a heart-wrenching and compassionate story of the life of a family. Each of them must confront the past and bring a resolution to that conflict in order to move forward. Emotions sometimes get in the way, both positive and negative.
The curiosity of pre-teens is gently explored through Ethan’s eyes. He wants to know more about his father. He wants to unlock the secrets of the universe and travel back in time to see how his life unfolded. And he wants to share that experience with his new friend, Allison. That in a nutshell is the essence of being a teenage boy -- time machines and girls. He struggles to find his place in life, as we all did at that age, and experiments with social norms. Like most of us, he is clumsy and geeky.
We also get alternating points of view from Ethan’s parents. Claire looks back at the sacrifices she has made in the name of motherhood. She also is torn between the deep feelings she has toward Mark after his conviction and the love she felt when they were first dating and married. The devotion for Ethan is the driving force behind her character.
At the same time, we see the world through Mark’s eyes. He has been ostracized by people because of his conviction. Even his family is wary around him. Some of that dates to before his problems. At a young age, he was seen differently by his father, and he’s struggled to overcome perceptions. He desperately wants to meet his son, but knows that he can’t just pop into the picture. It is a process, and that process evolves over the course of the book.
Antonia Hayes has written a novel with three very rich, deep characters. It is their internal struggles, playing off each of their outward attitudes that propel the narrative, and the reader to the last pages of the book. This is one of those novels where you want the story to keep going. What happens with Mark? What happens to Ethan after the book ends. His story definitely continues.
With Relativity Antonia Hayes has written a story that will keep the reader asking for more. Her smooth delivery and descriptive character development made this novel a joy to read. I’ve been lucky to find several first time novelists who are incredible writers. Additionally, since she is from Australia, we’re given a new perspective on the world. And that is what reading is all about.
Craig Bacon once wanted to build a time machine to impress a girl. Okay….more than once. Yeah, you got me. I still want to build a time machine. Follow his nonsense on Twitter @hippieboy73 or at niagaraswatercooler.com.