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

THE DIVINE PROPORTIONS OF LUCA PACIOLI

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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