Thank you NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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.
This incredibly moving novel takes a close look at a family who was torn apart by a horrific act of violence, as well as the aftermath thirteen years later. Picture if you will, skipping a stone across a pond and watching the ripples that form in its wake. That’s how I felt while reading this heartbreaking yet humorous story. The chapters alternate in the third person between Ethan, Claire, and Mark which gives the reader a real sense of each of them. Ethan is indisputably the heart and soul of this story. He’s an immensely likable and sympathetic character who is trying his best to understand and deal with what’s happening to him. Claire, as a single mother who loves her son and is desperately trying to keep her child safe, is someone that many readers will relate to. Mark is the weakest one in the book. It’s not made clear until near the end as to whether he was truly guilty of what he was accused of, but by that time I already actively disliked him. No matter what happened when Ethan was four months old, Mark could have made more of an effort to reach out to Claire and his son yet he chose not to. Instead he’s a self-pitying man who chooses to live in denial rather than be a part of his son’s life. The story itself is beautifully written and Antonia Hayes does a masterful job balancing each character’s backstory while through Ethan’s actions, she brings them inexorably together. There was one rather bizarre scene involving Ethan building a time machine with his newfound friend Allison which was a bit perplexing. It was the one jarring note in an otherwise smoothly flowing story. There was also the issue of bullying that took center stage at the beginning, but was rather hastily dropped without any kind of resolution. Overall though I think Relativity is a novel that successfully combines a coming-of-age story with thought-provoking life lessons and raises the question of whether someone can or should be forgiven for an abhorrent act committed in the heat of a moment. It would be a perfect selection for any book discussion group. I find it hard to believe that this is the first book by Antonia Hayes and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes out with next.