Book Club: The Mathematician’s Shiva
This novel is about the death of a fictional world-famous female mathematician who is rumored to have solved a major mathematical problem, and whose family is deluged with other (male) mathematicians at her shiva who are trying to discover her solution. This funny novel explores family dynamics, professional rivalries, and Jewish mourning customs.
“This is a full — sometimes overfull — novel, but you can never really complain about a book being too alive, too curious, too alert, too true to itself. Sasha is the key: Not only does he have a fine, self-deprecating sense of humor, he’s also allowed his humanizing flaws.” (The New York Times)
Love, Death and Math in Wisconsin
If you have never heard of the Navier-Stokes problem in mathematics, after reading Stuart Rojstaczer’s rollicking first novel, “The Mathematician’s Shiva,” you might claim to know something about it, though explaining its significance to a friend may remain impossible.
The story revolves around a world-renowned, Polish Jewish mathematical genius, Rachela Karnokovitch, who is the driving force and focus of this multigenerational family tale of American immigrants. Actually, it is her death, and the suspicion that she has deciphered this century-old mathematical riddle that sets the story in motion. Our heartbroken narrator is her son Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch, a half-Polish, half-Jewish, Russian-born professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Irreverent and self-deprecating, Sasha, with the support of other close family members, plans to sit shiva to honor the beloved Rachela’s passing. Yet “a horde of mathematicians” — 400 to be precise — take advantage of this Jewish ritual to “descend upon” her Madison, Wisconsin, home, partly to honor the remarkable woman, but even more so to be part of the academic intrigue surrounding her possible final disclosure. Continue reading in The Forward