Book: The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Author: Paolo Giordano
Published: 2010 (Viking)
Twin primes are prime numbers that are separated by only one even number between them, like 11 and 13. They’re oddballs that don’t fit in anywhere else and they can almost touch but not quite and they get exponentially rarer as you climb up the number line. They’re also excellent metaphors.
Alice and Mattia have both suffered odd, preventable-in-hindsight traumas that make them just a little out of place in their normal world of high school: Alice had to pee during a ski lesson her dad made her take and when she went to find a bush to squat behind she fell off a ledge and didn’t call attention to herself because she hated skiing so she didn’t get medical help in time to heal her leg right. Mattia had to take his mentally handicapped twin sister to a birthday party but told her to stay on a picnic table halfway there so she wouldn’t embarrass him and she was gone when he came back and was never found.
Alice turns reckless and anorexic to feel alive; Mattia turns to math for its logic. They meet, gradually uncover each other’s flaws, and become friends while they aren’t paying attention.
They never quite come together, and SPOILE ALERT in the end when they find each other, they find that they don’t fit. And you know what? That’s actually okay. They both realize that it will never be the right time for both of them at the same time, and that’s why I ended up loving this book.
The beginning when the traumas are described as perfectly plausible but just offbeat enough to cause lasting damage, and the ending when they realize they won’t be able to help each other as perfectly as they thought but that they still help each other and that’s maybe enough – both of those chunks are done great, humanistic favors by the quiet prose. This same style kind of makes the middle sag with the weight of everyday life, though it was never a chore to get through. Just more ordinary.
This was translated from Italian and it’s been on my radar for a couple years, so:
- No idea how good/faithful the translation is
- I’m sad I have to turn it back in to the library, but I’m very glad I read it once. For free!