A doubter’s almanac / Ethan Canin

A Doubter’s Almanac is a novel about addiction, repetition, and the nature of genius.  Milo Andret is a prize-winning mathematician who solves a famous topology problem.  Meanwhile, his addiction to alcohol costs him his career at Princeton and ultimately separates him from his wife and two children.  Milo’s son and daughter seem to inherit the math gene and are prodigies too, though the son gives up math to become a financier – and a cocaine addict.  The son seems better at keeping his addiction under control.  The son’s two children – a boy and a girl – are also math whizzes, and their relationship has parallels to their father’s and aunt’s relationship.  Everything repeats.  Milo’s behavior – to his colleagues, to the women he exploits, to his family – is despicable, yet the reader keeps hoping for his redemption.  The book is beautifully written, with excellent nature descriptions of the locales in New Jersey, Michigan, and Ohio, and just enough mathematical theory to convince you the book is about a mathematician, but not enough to overwhelm you.     Elaine 3/17/2017

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