A well-imagined celebration of Pacioli’s life and philosophy.


A fictional recounting of the life of a Renaissance mathematician and cleric.

Parker’s debut novel, part of the Mentoris Project of historical novels and biographies celebrating notable Italians, tells the story of Luca Pacioli, who combined mathematics and religion in 15th- and 16th-century Italy. After growing up in the town of Sansepolcro, Pacioli is apprenticed to a merchant who doesn’t appreciate his enthusiasm for Arabic numerals. He finds a more supportive mentor in artist Piero della Francesca, and this association leads Pacioli to new connections and collaborations as he develops his skills and Italy goes through religious and political turmoil. He’s ordained as a friar, publishes several books on mathematics and related topics, and works with various artists, including Leonardo da Vinci (“We made an odd couple, surely, one atheist and one devout friar”). Throughout his career, he draws connections between math and religion, particularly in his investigation of the divine proportion of the book’s title—a ratio that appears throughout the natural world. This novel hews closely to its subject’s documented history, and Parker does an excellent job of imagining the rest, including cameos by historical figures, such as Martin Luther. Some stylistic choices add to the book’s feeling of uniqueness; for instance, each chapter ends with a number in the famous Fibonacci mathematical sequence. The narrative is also presented as a memoir that Pacioli is dictating to a young scribe, who leaves occasional footnotes throughout the text. Parker ably explains Pacioli’s theological approach to math and balances the book’s spiritual and historical elements. However, Luca’s frequent asides to the reader (“I want to make sure you understand this reference since it’s important you grasp my sense of humor and the type of playful banter Guiliano and I had with one another”) can break the novel’s flow at times. Although some readers may be unsatisfied with the novel’s deliberately open-ended resolution, many are likely to appreciate the intriguing history and well-rounded characters.

A well-imagined celebration of Pacioli’s life and philosophy.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947431-27-0

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Barbera Foundation, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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