The Mathematician's Shiva

The Mathematician’s Shiva

A Novel

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780143126317
  • 384  Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


“A brilliant and compelling family saga full of warmth, pathos, history, and humor.” –Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here
“A hugely entertaining debut.”Publishers Weekly

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.
The Mathematician's Shiva

The Mathematician’s Shiva

Stuart Rojstaczer


“A hugely entertaining debut.”
Publishers Weekly
“A brilliant and compelling family saga full of warmth, pathos, history, and humor, not to mention a cast of delightfully quirky characters, and a math lesson or two; all together, a winning equation! When Rojstaczer writes about mathematics, you’d think he was writing about poetry.”
Jonathan Evison, New York Times bestselling author of West of Here and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
“I loved this smart, funny, big-hearted novel.  As hilarious and wise as early Philip Roth, The Mathematician’s Shiva will delight and move you.”
Steven Strogatz, author of The Joy of x
“Stuart Rojstaczer writes with enormous wit, style and empathy, and The Mathematician’s Shiva is a big-hearted, rollickingly funny novel that’s impossible to put down. A tremendous debut.”
Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
“I love The Mathematician’s Shiva. Who else will love it? Anyone who knows the manic world of the intellectually obsessed that Rojstaczer so perfectly captures, and anyone who loves dialogue that sparkles with wit, characters full of quirks and pathos, and a plot that fluctuates between hilarity and heartbreak.”
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God and Plato at the Googleplex
 “Here is the rare book that invites us into the romance of pure mathematics and the very human company of those who spend their decades unknotting the abstractions that describe our reality.”
Lore Segal, author of Shakespeare’s Kitchen and Half the Kingdom
“This funny, moving, perceptive look at one man’s relationship to his eccentric mother and the legacy of her genius succeeds to the nth degree. Rojstaczer is a wise, warm-hearted, and wonderful new writer.”
Eric Puchner, author of Model Home
“Stuart Rojstaczer has written a mathematician’s history of the family, full of challenging equations, emotional calculus and unexpected conclusions. The Mathematician’s Shiva is  intricate, intelligent and funny, a pleasure to read.”
Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
 “At last! The long hoped-for proof that a group of people even crazier than Yiddish-speakers can, in fact, exist.”
Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch


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