Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

Despite the odd sounding name and subject matter, this book was actually quite funny.  It's written from the perspective of Sasha, the son of a famous mathematician, Rachaela, who passes away.  It is rumoured that she solved a major math problem on her death bed and dozens of mathematicians gather at the shiva to try to find her solution (or recreate it).  The interactions between Sasha, his father, uncle, cousin, adoptive sister and the eccentric mathematicians are very humorous.

Interspersed with the description of the shiva, are excerpts from Rachaela's memoirs which tell of her difficult childhood in Siberia then her defection to the USA.  We also hear how Sasha and his father were able to escape the Soviet Union several years later and how Rachaela was reunited with her brother who had been separated from the family as an infant and survived World War II by climbing out of a pit where many Jews had been shot.

The novel is written by Sasha years following the death and we also get to see how he really blossomed emotionally following the death of his overbearing mother.  Though they were close, she really defined his life and he was able to move on once she was out of the picture.

Not the most fantastic book ever, but an entertaining read.

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