cover image The Solitude of Prime Numbers

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Paolo Giordano, . . Viking/Pamela Dorman, $25.95 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-670-02148-2

Italian author and mathematician Giordano follows two scarred people whose lives intersect but can't seem to join in his cerebral yet touching debut. Alice and Mattia, both survivors of childhood traumas, are the odd ones out amid the adolescent masses in their high school. Mattia has never recovered from the loss of his sister, while Alice still suffers the effects of a skiing accident that damaged her physically and stunted her ability to trust. Now teenagers, Mattia, also addicted to self-injury, has withdrawn into a world of numbers and math, and Alice gains control through starving herself and photography. When they meet, they recognize something primal in each other, but timing and awkwardness keep their friendship on tenuous ground until, years later, their lives come together one last time. Giordano uses Mattia and Alice's trajectory to ask whether there are some people—the prime numbers among us—who are destined to be alone, or whether two primes can come together. The novel's bleak subject matter is rendered almost beautiful by Giordano's spare, intense focus on his two characters. (Mar.)