Divide Me by Zero

Tin House. Oct. 2019. 360p. ISBN 9781947793422. pap. $24.95. F
Katya Geller wastes no time outlining the defining moments of her life—a recently dead mother, an unhappy marriage, a man who is not her husband with whom she is in love, an engagement to a man who is not the man she loves. And that’s just the first page. Born in Russia in 1974, Katya, her new husband, and Nina, her recently widowed mother (a famous author of math textbooks for children), immigrate to New York in the 1990s in search of the American dream. Soon Katya’s gift for writing stories in English jump-starts a successful literary career and a teaching position at a New York University. Nearly two decades later, Katya’s personal life is a mess, conducted without filters and often at the top of her lungs. Exacerbating her wild, romantic mood swings and paralyzing uncertainty is the death of her challenging mother, who left behind notes for one last textbook that Katya wants to finish.
VERDICT 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.

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