Little resentments and lack of communication are threatening the marriage of Amy and Ben. He’s been rather paralyzed since the sudden death of his parents in a plane crash and is content to hang around the house, while she spends her days in court as a high powered lawyer. He’s not keen on getting an android to do the chores that Amy grudgingly does because he doesn’t do them well enough to suit her fastidious standards. When an old fashioned robot (not a sophisticated android) appears in their garden one day, Ben’s inaction in dealing with the unsightly thing is the last straw. Amy leaves, and that is when Ben’s quest begins. Tang, the robot is damaged. With a just partially worn inscription to go on, Ben travels first to California, then Tokyo, and finally to Micronesia in hope of repairing the spunky little robot whose “humanity” evolves as does the relationship between the two travelling companions. Like all good hero’s journeys, what Ben’s growth along the way is as much the point of the journey as repairing Tang and returning him to his owner.
Deborah Install’s A Robot in the Garden is full of humor and poignancy. She realistically portrays the complicated emotions involved in romantic and parental relationships. The science fiction aspects of the novel are almost irrelevant. Tang is one of the most charming characters of the literary year. I’m adding this to my list of delightfully quirky where you can also find:
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt