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Review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Editorial Review - Bookreporter.com - Norah Piehl

It's rare that a novel that has a mathematical concept as its central trope should concern itself so intimately and sincerely with matters of the heart as well as the head. But THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS, Paolo Giordano's prizewinning debut, does so beautifully, engaging readers' brains and emotions in equal measure. Just as we learn arithmetic in childhood, Giordano's book seems to suggest, we ... Read full review

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This wonderful book follows the lives of two uniquely different characters, Mattia and Alice, she’s anorexic, he’s a cutter. Tragic accidents, resulting from foolish decisions, Mattia’s own when he leaves his twin alone in a park and Alice’s own when she decides to ski down a mountain alone, in the fog, after being forced by her domineering father to participate in the sport, shape their lives. Both characters continued to help create their own unhappiness and isolation, as they matured, further paving the dysfunctional path of their futures. Neither one fit comfortably into the world, in the space they occupied, and their own impetuous decisions, as they grew older, were just as foolish as those that originally caused their lives to veer into the unusual, rather than the ordinary.
Alice and Mattia are indeed prime numbers, divisible only by one, because they can’t abide close relationships with others. As they matured, they both continued to help shape their own unhappiness and life of solitude, a life they seemed, eventually, to grow to prefer. Their own idiosyncratic behavior discouraged healthy interactions as much as the way others treated them created that unhealthy behavior, that very behavior which turned them away from personal contact.
The book explored the consequences of decisions and the interaction of the characters with others, as they developed. They were needy and they met needy people. They were lonely and lonely people gravitated toward them. Dysfunction followed them, and often it was the key to their survival, as others, in spite of their shortcomings and their oddness, were drawn to them, precisely because of their deficiencies.
The book is uncomfortable to read because it is a sad commentary on the lives of the characters that never seemed to move on and grow. The book examines characters that are so called, “normal” characters who preyed on those that were not, who bullied them mercilessly, and yet, those characters managed to have more successful lives than those they bullied, and left to wither. All of the characters seemed flawed in some way, all seemed to have trouble communicating with each other, but the two main characters were uniquely flawed.
It was another audio book for me and I am becoming quite fond of this format. If the reader is good, the experience is exhilarating because I think it helps you become a part of the narrative with the narrator, feeling the excitement, fear, tension of the voice and suffering the whole range of emotions of the characters, as they do. Although I found it to be a sad little book, I also found it to be quite credible and recognized some of the characters in other people I have known through my lifetime. Reactions were plausible. I never had to suspend disbelief. It examined the ordinary and extraordinary reactions our experiences and environment sometimes unwittingly, precipitate.
 

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