When the greatest female mathematician in history passes away, her son, Alexander "Sasha" Karnokovitch, just wants to mourn his mother in peace. But rumor has it the notoriously eccentric Polish émigré has solved one of the most difficult problems in all of mathematics and has spitefully taken the solution to her grave. As a ragtag group of mathematicians from around the world descends upon Rachela's shiva, determined to find the proof or solve it for themselves - even if it means prying up the floorboards for notes or desperately scrutinizing the mutterings of her African Grey parrot - Sasha must come to terms with his mother's outsized influence on his life.
Spanning decades and continents, from a crowded living room in Madison, Wisconsin, to the windswept beach on the Barents Sea where a young Rachela had her first mathematical breakthrough, The Mathematician's Shiva is an unexpectedly moving and uproariously funny novel that captures humanity's drive not just to survive but to achieve the impossible.
I truly enjoyed this novel- humorous and engaging- it held my attention.
The narrator was fantastic.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Having been a "Mathlete" in high school, and growing up with Yiddish-speaking grandparents and parents, the book had special appeal to me. The accents were "close", however, the pronunciation of several of the Yiddish words was inaccurate, and, as a result, somewhat distracting. Overall, I enjoyed the story and the readers very much.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I imagine that it is not for everyone, and maybe one must be an academic to appreciate just how close to the truth the satire is and to appreciate the humor in these characters. The story features Rachela Karnokovitch, a great female mathematician, and her mashugana family and colleagues, as told by her son. She is of Russian-Polish, Jewish origin. A family mostly of unbelievers, she is paradoxically observant.
Listeners who are not scientists might benefit from reading a little about the Navier-Stokes equations on wikipedia, not that one must understand the mathematics, but in order to place the problem in context. It is a basic equation for incompressible fluid flow and apparently can describe all observed behaviors, including turbulence, but the existence of solutions with the properties expected has never been demonstrated. Also, there really is a million dollar Millenium Prize awaiting the person or group who is able to characterize solutions to this equation. The reader, Stephen Thorne, does a good job with the characters, but I found Angela Brazil's portrayal of Rachela reading from her diary a bit off-putting, especially toward the end of the book. To me, she doesn't sound at all like the woman described.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Mathematician's Shiva the most enjoyable?
I don't usually write reviews, but this is the exception, I guess partly because, like the characters in this book, I am a Jewish mathematician whose forbears came to the US from Russia. It was a great read and to my surprise, I found myself regularly laughing out loud at dialogue, as the narrator grapples with dichotomies of life: emotions vs. science vs politics
vs religion-- and how they all complicate life. This will be a rare case for me as I intend to read it again.
What about Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Thorne ’s performance did you like?
The performances were outstanding, especially Mr. Thorne's variations on a Russian accent to differentiate (see!---Math everywhere!) the various characters.
Dull, unimaginative, and at times, shrieking at you, this ranks among the worst books I've ever purchased. It's going straight back to Audible.
1 of 6 people found this review helpful