A tiny baby is rushed to hospital. Doctors suspect he was shaken by his father, who is later charged and convicted. The baby grows up in the care of his mother. Life goes on.
Twelve years later, Ethan is a singular young boy. Gifted with an innate affinity for physics and astronomy, Ethan sees the world in ways others simply can't - through a prism of light, time, stars and space.
Ethan is the centre of his mother's universe. Claire has tried to protect him from finding out what happened when he was a baby. But the older Ethan gets, the more questions he asks about his father.
A single, handwritten letter is all it takes to set off a dramatic chain of events, pulling both parents back together again into Ethan's orbit. As the years seem to warp and bend, the past is both relived and revealed anew for each of them.
Heart-wrenching, absorbing and magical, Relativity is an irresistible novel about science, love, unbreakable bonds and irreversible acts.
Relativity by Antonia Hayes is published By Corsair, an imprint of Little Brown, in hardback on 7 April 2016 and is the author's debut novel.
Every now and again a book comes along that takes me totally by surprise; Relativity is one of those books. The pure beauty and assurance of Antonia Hayes' writing feels like a smack in the face, it really is hauntingly, bewilderingly clever.
The first chapter, entitled 'Motion' is just ten sentences long, yet those opening words are gripping and vivid and set the scene for the excellent story that follows.
Twelve-year-old Ethan lives with his mother Claire in a Sydney suburb. Ethan doesn't know anything about his father, he doesn't know his name, or that he spent time in jail after he was convicted of harming four-month-old Ethan by shaking him violently and causing damage to his brain. Ethan and Claire live quietly together, Claire gave up her dreams of becoming a ballerina and Ethan loves physics and astronomy. The other kids at school think he is a freak, and even his best friend Will seems to hate him now.
Ethan is different, he can see sound waves and light, he can see time moving, he just doesn't realise that most people don't see things in the way that he does.
One explosive day, things come to a head. Ethan wants to know about his father, and the discovery of a letter causes an accident, and this is when the adults around him realise .... realise that he is more special that they realised.
Relativity is narrated in three separate voices. Ethan, his mother Claire, and his father Mark. Antonia Hayes shows incredible talent, empathy and understanding of each one of these characters with her ability to create three independent, yet intricately linked characters who the reader can relate to, and love. It is extraordinary that she has been able to portray Mark, the guy who damaged his tiny son, as a caring, intelligent and truly warm person. Mark could so easily have been portrayed as a monster, yet this author has concentrated on the whole being, and whilst what he has done is not excused, it is explained.
Ethan's love of physics and all things science play a huge part of this story, and I was expecting to be a little 'blinded by science', but no, Antonia Hayes makes even the most difficult formula and theory very simple to understand, by using the voice and reasoning of a twelve-year-old boy.
Relativity really is a magical book. I was transfixed by it, pulled in immediately and held in its thrall until the final page. The complexity of the emotion is beautifully done, but light enough that the heartbreak doesn't become consuming.
This is story of family relationships, with guilt, blame and redemption the central theme. Relativity is intelligent, charming and really quite marvellous. I am so impressed by Relativity and can't wait to see what Antonia Hayes writes next.
My thanks to Corsair, the publisher, who sent my copy for review.
Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.
Relativity is her first novel.
For more information about the author, and her writing, visit her website www.antoniahayes.com
Follow her on Twitter @antoniahayes