|In this eerie thriller, a school psychologist tries to help parents of a young girl they believe is the reincarnated soul of a mathematical genius who died at the age of 19.
A psychologist fresh out of school, a female psychologist which is rare for 1925, is called to a small town in Oregon to diagnose and help a seven year old girl who has never been to Kansas and yet wrote the following in a school essay:
|(quoted from Yesternight)|
The scariest thing that ever happened to me was when I used to be called Violet Sunday and lived in Kansas. I was deep in the water and couldn't swim back up to the surface. My heart hurt. It felt like it was about to blow up. Even though I loved number so much, I didn't even feel like counting to figure out how many second I was under the water. All of my number happiness left me, and I just sank and sank until everything went black and I died. I was nineteen. I died and it hurt.
Mathematics plays two roles in the novel. It is a clue that the little girl in Oregon really was Violet Sunday, as we learn that both of them not only had advanced mathematical ability (demonstrated in the story mostly by the girl being able to do some simple arithmetic at the request of the psychologist) but also wrote "geometric proofs" on the walls of their bedrooms. Also, although the little girl loves math and (almost all) numbers, she has an extreme distaste for the number 8, which also eventually fits into the story of Violet Sunday and her drowning. A separate role for the math is that it lends interest to the story of Violet Sunday as she lived in the 19th century when her mathematical abilities and interests would not have been encouraged due to her gender. The psychologist herself says:
|(quoted from Yesternight)|
A female mathematical genius.
A Victorian female mathematical genius.
What an absolutely delicious idea.
Indeed it could be. Unfortunately, about 3/4 of the way through the book, the story of Violet Sunday and her rebirth in Oregon reaches a conclusion without doing much with the mathematics. After that, the focus of the novel shifts to the psychologist and the possibility that she too is the reincarnation of a tortured soul.
For me, this book was a "page turner". Themes of feminism and sex ran through it more deeply than math, which was my original reason for reading. Even so I had trouble putting it down because I wanted to see where it was going. In the end, though, I found the conclusion of the novel to be creepy but disappointing. Then again, I was probably not part of the book's intended audience. If you have a different opinion of Yesternight or more to add to the description, please write to let me know and I'll post your comments here.