Boyle, Dan.” Housecleaning”, The Haworth Press, 2007.
The Meaning of Life
How often do we search for our place in the world? I imagine we all do so on a regular basis. Dan Boyle has taken that search and written a beautiful and glorious book about it. “Housecleaning” is the story of a middle-aged man’s search to find himself and he deals with many themes—love, loss, time, and quantum physics. As Tom Flaherty searches for himself, science is questioned as is spirituality. By doing so Dan Boyle shows the commonalities between the two and gives us different ways to reach the truth.
Tom Flaherty’s mother suffers from a form of dementia that causes her to think back in time and she does so when she cleans house. She finds items that make her remember. In the travels of her mind, Mary Flaherty goes back to 1925 and the Scopes trial, to the Olympics of Berlin in 1936 to the March for Civil Rights on Washington in
1963. These memories allow her son, Tom, a physicist at CalTech to work on the development of a unified theory of time, space and place, which he calls String Theory and this lets him reconnect to the time, ten years, before when his partner, Ken, was murdered.
The story is not so much narrated but woven in which all parts are interconnected and Boyle presents in beautiful language a story that is sensitive and heart-warming. Tom Flaherty loks at the minor resentments which are part of all families and moves from that into a look at the world by examining the smallest particles of matter as seen in quantum physics. He looks at black holes and the way the universe has accelerated.
The themes of the novel are universal and they are presented with great humor which is quite astounding and very satisfying. The complexity of the material with which the author deals is presented in very readable terms and as fiction this book is quite amazing.
Here is a novel that is ful of love and awe as well as the struggle of all of us to understand the world in which we live. The book deals with grief and difference and shows how if we keep at something long enough we can learn to live a meaningful life. There is a great deal of suspense in this novel and it s masterfully crafted. The way the book ends gives hope and is just one of the most incredible pieces of literature that I have ever read and I am so glad I did. This is one of those rare books that is a surprise and it is almost perfect. Boyle has written a novel about everything that is important—not just in the world but in the universe.