Tuesday 30 June 2020

Divide Me by Zero

Finished June 29
Divide Me by Zero by Lara Vapnyar

An interesting novel. The narrator and main character, Katya Geller grew up in Russia and emigrated to the United States as a young adult with her mother and new husband. Katya's father was in the Russian navy and was killed at sea when she was very young. Her mother was very affected by this loss, and only gradually came back to herself and Katya mentally. Her mother was a mathematician and a mathematics teacher, and she wrote quite a few textbooks on the subject in Russia.
As the book opens, Katya is in the middle of a divorce, and has just realized that her mother is dying. Over the course of the book, we discover how she came to this place in her life.
When she was a schoolgirl, she fell in love with one of her friend's teachers, referred to throughout as B. He had a special relationship with her and yet emigrated to the United States with his wife and child. Katya eventually moved on and fell in love with a young man, Len. Len is a computer scientist, and although had not planned to leave Russia before marrying Katya, is easily convinced when she and her mother get accepted to immigrate.
Katya finds life in the States different than she expected, and struggles to find a job and a way forward. She and Len have two children, and her mother lives with them as well.
The chapters of the novel are interspersed with mathematical phrases and statements written by Katya's mother as part of a new textbook she is working on. Katya is both narrator and a writer herself, seemingly of the novel we are reading. Katya has strong emotions and often acts before thinking, especially in her personal life.
This is a very different novel, with elements of Russian novelistic style as well as the elements of math that repeatedly appear throughout.

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