Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Review of The Mathematician's Shiva - The RBC book for January

I'm going to make this easy for you.  We don't even need Goodreads for a synopsis.  In Stuart Rojstaczer's The Mathematician's Shiva, the world's most famous female mathematician, Rachela Karnokovitch, dies at the age of 71.  Her 50-year old son, Sasha, along with a whole host of quirky characters, sits shiva for 7 days following her funeral. (Do you know what sitting shiva means?  Did you see the movie or read the book This Is Where I Leave You?  If you did one or the other, then you know what it is.  If not, do a quick search for a detailed explanation).

Right off the bat I can tell you that I enjoyed reading something very different from anything else I've read.  Really, the whole story revolves around the decades-long quest of mathematicians around the world to solve one particular math problem.  And many of these mathematicians come to Rachela's house over the ensuing 7 days to, ostensibly, pay their respects.  But, actually, they want to see if Rachela solved the mystery math problem and, if so, how they can get their hands on the answer.

Besides Sasha, there are a host of other family members:  Sasha's dad, divorced from Rachela; his uncle, Rachela's brother, who reunited with his sister after many years of being separated; Bruce, his uncle's son, who is a big shot producer in Hollywood; Anna, the ballerina, who was unofficially adopted by Rachela when Anna was 21; and (NON-SPOILER ALERT), a very big human surprise package.  And then there are the mathematicians themselves.  You have to read about them to believe them.  Stuart has created a whole bevy (isn't that a bunch of quail?) of interesting, and very atypical, characters.

I enjoyed this book a lot.  And I'm definitely looking forward to having Stuart come to the Recycle Book Club meeting on January 13.  If you have a chance to read it, and want to come hear Stuart talk about The Mathematician's Shiva, then stop on by on January 13. Our club members meet from 6:30-7:00 to talk about the book.  And Stuart will come at 7:00 to answer questions and sign.  It's super fun to get the back story.


  1. I have the book but haven't read it yet. :( It sounds so unique and right up my alley.

  2. I've never heard of this book, but your review hooked me!