Summary and book reviews of Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar

Divide Me By Zero

by Lara Vapnyar

Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar X
Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2019, 360 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2020, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

As a young girl, Katya Geller learned from her mother that math was the answer to everything. Now, approaching forty, she finds this wisdom tested.

She has lost the love of her life, she is in the middle of a divorce, and has just found out that her mother is dying. Half-mad with grief, Katya turns to the unfinished notes for her mother's last textbook, hoping to find guidance in mathematical concepts.

With humor, intelligence, and unfailing honesty, Katya traces back her life's journey: her childhood in Soviet Russia, her parents' great love, the death of her father, her mother's career as a renowned mathematician, and their immigration to the United States. She is, by turns, an adrift newlywed, an ESL teacher in an office occupied by witches and mediums, a restless wife, an accomplished writer, a flailing mother of two, a grieving daughter, and, all the while, a woman in love haunted by a question: how to parse the wild, unfathomable passion she feels through the cool logic of mathematics?

Award-winning author Lara Vapnyar delivers an unabashedly frank and darkly comic tale of coming-of-age in middle age. Divide Me by Zero is almost unclassifiable―a stylistically original, genre-defying mix of classic Russian novel, American self-help book, Soviet math textbook, sly writing manual, and, at its center, an intense romance that captures the most common misfortune of all: falling in love.

Excerpt
Divide me by zero

One week before my mother died, I went to a Russian food store on Staten Island to buy caviar. I was brought up in the Soviet Union, where caviar was considered a special food reserved for children and dying parents. I never thought of it as extravagant or a romantic delicacy. My mother would offer me some before important tests in school, because it was chock-full of phosphorus that supposedly stimulated brain cells. I remember eating caviar before school, at seven am, still in my pajamas, shivering from the morning cold, seated in the untidy kitchen of our Moscow apartment, yawning and dangling my legs, bumping my knees against the boards of our folding table, holding that piece of bread spread with a thin layer of butter and thinner layer of caviar.

I did eat caviar in a romantic setting once. With a very rich Russian man who I agreed to marry even though I was still married to Len and still in love with B.

"Caviar," I said to the sullen Russian woman ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

At its core this is a book about human connection—forced connection, organic connection and everything in between. There's a certain universality to her conflict that will resonate with most readers, despite the backdrop of Russian immigration that makes this story so singular. With refreshing honesty and expertly employed tongue in cheek humor, Divide Me By Zero is a whip-smart, razor-sharp book that defies easy genre categorization, but which leaves a lasting impression...continued

Full Review (523 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

New York Times
"The framing can feel contrived, though it’s in keeping with Vapnyar’s track record: deeply affecting but playful, edging into cutesy...Divide Me by Zero is a mordant tribute to lost loves, none more beloved or irretrievably lost than Katya’s mother.

Kirkus Reviews
It's almost impossible to put the book down...A poignant, vivid, and frequently funny novel.

Publishers Weekly
Among the many pleasures of the novel is Vapnyar's portrayal of the intellectual connection Katya has with her children, which is disarmingly lovely. Throughout, Vapnyar expertly exposes selfish desires and quiet discontent. This is a frank, amusing, and melancholy novel.

Library Journal
Geller's latest is the fascinating story of a brilliant, emotionally volatile protagonist whose wicked humor appears in frequent asides made directly to the reader, along with a smattering of whimsical graphics, and Nina's handwritten notes for her unrealized textbook. Smart, complicated, irresistible.

Booklist (starred review)
Woven together with math concepts and plenty of raw feelings, this is a love story for those who are forever engaged in the pursuit of happiness.

Author Blurb Cynthia Sweeney
Everything I love about Lara Vapnyar's vision and voice?her blazing intelligence, skewering wit and exuberant prose?is contained in this wild and witty novel. I don't know how her work manages to feel absolutely timely and perfectly timeless all at once.

Author Blurb Rivka Galchen
Lara Vapnyar is one of my very favorite writers: funny and true and with the rare talent to assemble one ideally telling scene after another. She is also one of the few writers I would recommend to all my friends, with all their varying tastes, because the charisma of her storytelling is unmissable.

Author Blurb Helen Phillips
Divide Me by Zero is a keen, penetrating novel about the quest for love?romantic and otherwise?that drives one woman's life. Lara Vapnyar brilliantly evokes (by way of, yes, math) a span of decades, a pair of continents, and a plethora of uneasy emotions. This book is so unflinchingly honest about the human condition that I couldn't put it down.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

Black and white photo of Joseph Brodsky with a kitten on his shoulderBorn in 1940 in Leningrad, Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky, known to English speakers as Joseph Brodsky, was a Russian-American poet and Nobel Prize laureate, whose works and life feature heavily in Lara Vapnyar's novel Divide Me By Zero.

Brodsky was raised in poverty; his father had lost his position with the Russian Navy for being Jewish, and Brodsky was forced to drop out of school at 15 and take on a number of odd jobs. During this time he taught himself English and Polish and also discovered a love of poetry. (Even late in his career he would often write his poetry in Russian and translate it himself into English.) He was introduced to Russian poet Anna Akhmatova in 1961, and she became his close friend and mentor.

Much like ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Lara Vapnyar

If you liked Divide Me By Zero, try these:

  • The Nesting Dolls jacket

    The Nesting Dolls

    by Alina Adams

    Published 2021

    About this book

    Spanning nearly a century, from 1930s Siberia to contemporary Brighton Beach, a page-turning, epic family saga centering on three generations of women in one Russian Jewish family - each striving to break free of fate and history, each yearning for love and personal fulfillment - and how the consequences of their choices ripple through time.

  • Little Gods jacket

    Little Gods

    by Meng Jin

    Published 2021

    About this book

    Combining the emotional resonance of Home Fire with the ambition and innovation of Asymmetry, a lyrical and thought-provoking debut novel that explores the complex web of grief, memory, time, physics, history, and selfhood in the immigrant experience, and the complicated bond between daughters and mothers.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: My Heart Underwater
    My Heart Underwater
    by Laurel Fantauzzo
    Corazon — Cory — Tagubio is a Filipina-American teenager living with her family in ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Sun
    Black Sun
    by Rebecca Roanhorse
    Reading the first book in a series is always difficult because readers know that, by definition, it ...
  • Book Jacket: Somewhere in the Unknown World
    Somewhere in the Unknown World
    by Kao Kalia Yang
    Resettled refugees are mostly invisible. Their needs are rarely publicized and their struggles are ...
  • Book Jacket: The Orchard
    The Orchard
    by David Hopen
    The protagonist of David Hopen's first novel, The Orchard, is 17-year-old Aryeh Eden, a Brooklyn boy...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Migrations
    by Charlotte McConaghy

    An instant bestseller set on the brink of catastrophe, for readers of Flight Behavior and Station Eleven.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Exiles
by Christina Baker Kline

The author of Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win This Book!
Win Jack

Return to Gilead with Jack, the instant New York Times bestseller

Enter to win Marilynne Robinson's latest novel in her classic series.

Enter


Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I G I O Ear A O T O

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.