Twelve year old Ethan Forsythe is a science whiz who can “see physics.” His mother Claire is a former ballerina who has raised him alone since his father Mark left shortly after he was born. When Ethan falls ill, the story behind his father’s leaving slowly emerges, and when Ethan intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he becomes determined to use his scientific acumen to find out the truth.
Relativity has all the elements of a tearjerker, and the premise somewhat reminds me of the movie August Rush. The story is told from alternating viewpoints of the family members, and Ethan is an endearing protagonist. I like the scientific metaphors, and the nerdiness of Ethan’s approach to everything. For example, he decides to build a time machine to prove his father’s innocence in an incident long ago.
Claire is probably my favourite character in this story, and I highly sympathized with the guilt she’s carried over the years about her role in her child’s injury. I love how fiercely protective she is of Ethan, even as she struggles to fully understand him and his world. She gave up her career as a ballerina to be a single mom, and while she has her flaws, I found her an admirable character.
I like how Mark and Ethan are so alike, and how much of a bond they form almost instantaneously. But I couldn’t help agreeing with Claire that perhaps he didn’t need to be part of their life. Until Mark’s father made meeting Ethan his dying wish, Mark seemed much too mired in regret to actually make an effort to reconnect, and while I understand his fear and hesitation, I would have liked a bit more insight into his character.
Stories similar to this usually have you cheering for the child and hoping that the family would end up together in the end. I don’t know what the author intended in this book, but that certainly wasn’t the case for me. I wanted Ethan to get better, and I was fine with him getting to know his father, but never quite got hooked on the idea that Claire and Mark should get back together. The novel never quite hooked me enough to make me cheer for one outcome or the other, and while perhaps this ambiguity is precisely what the author intended, it left me feeling oddly detached from the story. I do like the liberal use of scientific metaphors, as it gives us insight into Ethan’s and possibly his father’s heads, and I do like the idea of seeing particle waves as a superpower. But perhaps that too added a layer of disconnect when I read; I never quite got caught up in this story’s poetry of science.
Relavity is a sweet book about a family torn apart by an incident over a decade ago, and about the efforts taken to renew that bond. Some readers may geek out over the science metaphors; others may be moved by the family dynamics. At its best, Relativity is a moving look at how a single mistake can lead to such long term consequences.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Blog Tour and Contest
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