*I received a free copy of Relativity from Gallery Books via Edelweiss. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *Relativity by Antonia Hayes
Published by Gallery Books on 3 May 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Reading Challenges: 2016 New Release Challenge
Twelve-year-old Ethan Forsythe, an exceptionally talented boy obsessed with physics and astronomy, has been raised alone by his mother in Sydney, Australia. Claire, a former professional ballerina, has been a wonderful parent to Ethan, but he’s becoming increasingly curious about his father’s absence in his life. Claire is fiercely protective of her talented, vulnerable son—and of her own feelings. But when Ethan falls ill, tied to a tragic event that occurred during his infancy, her tightly-held world is split open.
Thousands of miles away on the western coast of Australia, Mark is trying to forget about the events that tore his family apart, but an unexpected call forces him to confront his past and return home. When Ethan secretly intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he unleashes long-suppressed forces that—like gravity—pull the three together again, testing the limits of love and forgiveness.
Told from the alternating points of view of Ethan and each of his parents, Relativity is a poetic and soul-searing exploration of unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, the limits of science, and the magnitude of love.
Relativity is a gem! Ethan is an amazing tween, smart, open-minded and extremely attaching. His story is complicated, and filled with equal measures of heartache and hope.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I started Relativity, such a strong, heart-wrenching story was not it, though. That’s what I got – Ethan was such a great main character to follow. He’s young, but very wise, and so smart! Some of the things he talked about went way over my head, but I still never felt stupid. Since he was a baby, Ethan has lived with his mom, Claire, and they have done really well for themselves. Even with Ethan’s problems – which in many ways won’t really be problems once he becomes an adult – Ethan and Claire managed to have a great relationship, and Ethan did really well in school. In the back of his mind, however, Ethan has been wondering who his father is, and why he isn’t a part of their lives.
As the story unfolds, Relativity shows the many layers of the characters, and also how there is always more than one side to each story. I was also struck by how a good person can definitely do a very bad thing, and thus not only have their own life completely changed, but the lives of those around them as well. There is also a very strong sense of all actions having some kind of consequence – and sometimes, those consequences are very hard to live with.
The characters really drove the story in Relativity, Claire, Mark and Ethan all have their specific personalities, and their voice was very different. I loved that they each had chapters where their perspective was shared, because it gave a lot of insight into how they dealt with life in general, and their problems in particular. The storyline itself felt very realistic to me, and there are some truly heart-breaking moments – for all three of the characters, but in different places and for various reasons.
The writing is really good, and I enjoyed the science parts – even the ones that were a bit difficult for me to grasp – and especially the conversations between Ethan and Mark, or between Ethan and Allison when he tried to explain wormholes to her with his perfect science-speak. The whole story unfolds in third person past tense, and the narrator is omniscient, even as each of the three main characters have their own chapters. Relativity captivated my mind and my heart from start to finish, and the road was beautiful, even with the difficult turns it sometimes took.
“Mum, do you think they ever miss me?” “Who?” “The other eggs. My brothers and sisters inside your ovaries. So far, I’m the only one who’s successfully made it out.” “Oh,” she said. “Well the other eggs would all be your sisters. Only men have the Y chromosome that makes baby boys. At the moment, all the eggs are girls.”
She loved her son in unexpected ways, with the same sort of visceral obsession that one might have for the idiosyncrasies of a lover. Claire loved his physicality – the way Ethan laughed so hard he farted, how he picked at the dry scabs on his knees, the weight of his musty head resting on her shoulder as they sat together on buses or trains. She enjoyed that silent intimacy most of all.
Time had stopped. It was an ordinary pocket watch: pale gold with a white face, a halo of black roman numerals around its edge. But the enamel of the dial had browned, the golden casing was coated in orange rust. Gears and shifts had frozen; there was no tick to follow the tock. No hand heaving forward, shaving another second off the future. Ethan pushed his nose against the glass. Time had stopped at seventeen minutes past eight.