Being the child of a legendary genius is difficult, especially when one has no talent for mathematics like one’s grandfather. After Isaac Severy commits suicide, it seems like everyone’s weaknesses and insecurities come out into the open. This might have been enough for any adopted granddaughter to cope with. But in The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, by Nova Jacobs, Hazel Severy is sent on a quest for her famous grandfather’s work. She has to dodge mysterious pseudo-governmental organizations as well as grieving family members.
During the reception after her grandfather’s funeral, Hazel finds a letter from him, asking her to find and destroy his most recent work. She’s not supposed to tell anyone about it. But how is a failing bookstore owner ever to follow the clues laid out by a mathematical genius? Hazel’s not a blood relative. She doesn’t have the family spark. And yet, she seems to be the only person that Isaac Severy trusted with his secrets.
While we follow Hazel’s sometimes hapless attempts at solving Isaac’s puzzles, we also get to look into the lives of Philip, Isaac’s son, and Gregory, Hazel’s brother. Philip is a capable mathematician, but not brilliant like his father. It eats at him, as does his wife’s grief after their daughter dies in an accident shortly after Isaac’s death. He’s flailing. It’s not the best time for vaguely threatening government consultants to come sniffing around. They’re after his father’s work, but Philip is vulnerable to a bit of flattery. Meanwhile, Gregory is also falling apart. He’s been following his abusive former foster father (another of Isaac’s sons) and pining after his lover.
There’s a lot going on in The Last Equation of Isaac Severy. Every chapter reveals another layer to this complicated family. Most fascinating of all is what Isaac was working on before his death. I won’t reveal the secret here, but I can say that it brings up questions about free well and determinism. This book is full of chaos that the characters are desperate to make sense of. They want to find meaning in their recent tragedies and I can’t blame them. This book shows us how Hazel, Philip, and Gregory seek answers in very different ways that bring up even more questions to ponder after the last page.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration. It will be released 6 March 2018.