|In this work of fiction, an anti-social character who believes that all of life's questions can be answered by mathematics discovers that there's more to life than numbers. In this particular version of that (unfortunately) very common plot, the main character has lost her job at an insurance company and according to the blurb "realizes that there are very few job openings for recently laid-off senior mathematicians with no people skills".
Then she gets hired to work at a Senior Citizen's Helpline. This may seem like an odd fit for someone with poor social skills, but it turns out that is all part of an evil plan concocted by the mayor and a national sudoku champion to use her to destroy the senior center.
In addition to the stereotype represented by the main character/narrator, there are lame (IMHO) attempts to communicate ideas using mathematical terminology. For example:
|(quoted from The Helpline)|
This was the sort of problem that looked complicated on the surface, but once you realized that Celia and Don had an inverse relationship, it was very straightforward:
Difficult, eh? But if you got rid of Celia by making C=0, then the whole thing resolved itself. Also, if C=0, then D for Don=infinity and that's the biggest "number" there is.
Yuck! Even mathematicians do not think people are numbers. There may be some features of those people that can be measured by numbers (e.g. their age or income), but nobody would propose treating the entire person as a number. Moreover, C being 0 would make the output of the function f undefined, but it would not make D infinite. (For instance, f(x)=1/x is a function. Would x=0 make 1 equal to infinity?) I'm sure some people reading my complaints will think that I'm being overly picky, but think of it this way: math is a language. There would be ways to say things with that language about the relationship between Celia and Don, but Collette does not know the language well enough to do it. If an author does not know English well enough to say something meaningful, we don't encourage them to write a novel in English, do we? All I'm saying is that I feel the same about the use of math.
I'm afraid I cannot recommend this first novel by an Australian author to visitors to this website. But, perhaps you feel differently. If you do, please feel free to contact me and I may post your own more flattering description of this book here.