Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest kid he knows. He’s played a waiting game his entire life because he knows he will one day enter the exalted land of academics, the people that he believes are his own kind. As a result, he is isolated from his classmates, who are frequently older than him, and suffers greatly and on his own for most of his childhood. Strangely, however, he returns home just a week before his college graduation, before he can present his important paper on the Riemann hypothesis. No one knows why, so for us to find out, we must take a trip back through his life; only the past will reveal to us just what has motivated Mead to give up his dream so close to its accomplishment.
This is quite an emotional book. Mead makes several realizations that are painful, for him and for the reader who can empathize with him. I could, though of course I never suffered nearly so much; still, I think nearly every child understands what it is to be teased and left out and as adults we do remember. Mead’s journey towards figuring out who he is and what he has lost is fascinating. He is completely bereft of social skills, which makes it difficult to watch him muddle around the people that he meets and the other students who could have been his friends.
I’m not sure, however, that I was content with the ending. It is one of those open-ended, anything could happen after this endings, and while part of me likes that and can see the meaning in it, the other larger part really wants to know what actually happened and where Mead was going with his life. If you prefer ambiguity, this book is certainly for you.
That minor qualm aside, I enjoyed Life After Genius and I found it absorbing and compelling while I was reading it. I’d recommend it if you’re not that intent on resolution and are looking for an engrossing, thoughtful read. Buy it on Amazon.
This review is part of the Life After Genius blog tour sponsored by Hachette Book Group USA. Thanks go out to Miriam Parker for organizing it and sending me this review copy!