At its center are Rachela Karnokovitch, a Polish emigre and world-renowned mathematician, and her grown son, Sasha, a professor of meteorological studies. At the beginning of the novel, Rachela is on her deathbed, refusing to reveal whether she has solved an illusive mathematic problem she has worked on all her life.
After her death, mathematicians from across the world descend on the small family home in Madison, Wisconsin — ostensibly to pay respects but mostly to resolve the mystery of Rachela’s mathematical proof. Sasha, his father, Rachela’s brother, and others must deal with the onslaught while processing their own personal grief.
The result is an exploration of everything from familial love to professional envy, from the personality quirks of mathematicians (and not surprisingly, there are many) to the differences between immigrants and home-grown Americans. The book is full of surprises, each one adding new dimensions to the story. Thoroughly enjoyable read.