A renowned mathematician struggles to create a formula for love in Persinger’s (Semele, 2008) sophomore effort.
William Teale, a prominent math pundit and department chair at Hudson Polytechnic, is married to famed romance novelist Virginia “Faye” Warner. Her adoring public is unaware that she has just suffered her seventh nervous breakdown and a ghostwriter, Ambrose, has actually penned her last batch of novels. Graduate student Roger Davison lands a coveted internship with William, and narrates Persinger’s tale of anguish and reason. Faye, a self-absorbed neurotic nicotine fiend, is dissatisfied with Ambrose’s latest manuscript and an ugly battle ensues. While Ambrose is convalescing in the hospital from a diabetic coma, Faye places an ad for her replacement. The witty and talented Claire is hired; unbeknownst to all but Roger, the eavesdropping intern, she and William share a romantic past. Chaos ensues in the Teale-Warner household, where Claire and William attempt to crank out Faye’s latest novel. William insists on devising a mathematical formula to explain romance, based on Faye’s timeworn mantra, “True love never dies.” Complications follow, and William’s past with Claire collides head-on with his present. His academic banter with colleague Arlen Sheffield provides the bulk of the book’s humor and will tickle any logician’s funny bone. William’s students, all brilliant math snoots, and Roger’s landlord, Mrs. Slocum, who heads Faye’s fan club, round out the motley cast of characters. A cerebral novel, it attempts to integrate the theoretical with the emotional, and showcases Persinger’s erudition with terms many might find unfamiliar, like "contrapositive," "preemptive morality" and "codification." But his skillful writing avoids conceit. The refreshing prose at once delights and confounds. This novel defies categorizing, and Persinger’s attempt to define love in scientific terms results in a smart synthesis of heart and mind.
A philosophical novel, with brains and tenderness.