Review: Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

03 Nov

Life After GeniusMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

(I’m hosting a giveaway of Life After Genius running until the evening of November 5.  If the book sounds interesting, check it out!)

From the Hachette web site:

Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest person he knows. By age 12, he was in high school, and by 15 he was attending a top-ranking university. And now, at the tender age of 18, he’s on the verge of proving the Riemann Hypothesis, a mathematical equation that has mystified academics for almost 150 years. But only days before graduation, Mead suddenly packs his bags and flees home to rural Illinois. What has caused him to flee remains a mystery to all but Mead and a classmate whose quest for success has turned into a dangerous obession.

At home, Mead finds little solace. His past ghosts haunt him; his parents don’t understand the agony his genius has caused him, nor his desire to be a normal kid, and his dreams seem crushed forever. He embarks on a new life’s journey — learning the family business of selling furniture and embalming the dead–that disappoints and surprises all who knew him as “the young Fegley genius.”

Equal parts academic thriller and poignant coming-of-age story, LIFE AFTER GENIUS follows the remarkable journey of a young man who must discover that the heart may know what the head hasn’t yet learned.

As I said in my review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I enjoy books about precocious kids. What’s interesting here is that at18, Theodore (or Mead, as he prefers to be called) isn’t really a kid anymore. He’s transitioning from childhood to adulthood with some big issues to face.

It took me a little while to get into Life After Genius. I found Mead hard to get to know, and for the first few chapters, the skipping around in time got in my way of bonding with him.

About 1/3 of the way in, the book clicked for me, and I wanted to get to know Mead better, I wanted to understand what had happened and why. The skipping back and forth in time became an interesting way of doling out information, of setting up why I should care before being told about an event in Mead’s life.

I really liked the pull between Mead, the bright young man in control of his mathematical future, and Teddy, the boy who is younger than all of his peers, and doesn’t have the social skills to cope with this– even with those that are well meaning (which certainly isn’t everyone). Both sides came into play with his reactions to events in the book.

Mead’s cousin Percy’s story really touched me as it unfolded. This is another one of Mead’s contrasts– how he dealt with the cousin who was successful in so many ways that he wasn’t. Percy’s story plays out, and really affects Mead’s world, and Mead has to come to terms with it.

I did have to stop and decide what I thought about the “ghosts” in the book description. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of math/mental illness link, as the reader had to decide why things were happening the way they were for Mead. In the end, I was OK with how it played out.

My Book Club M will be discussing Life After Genius in January.  I think it will make for interesting conversation, and I’m looking forward to it.  The publisher has a Reading Group Guide, which we usually use once our conversation has died down.

Thank you to Hachette Book Group for providing me with this book to review, and for allowing me to host a 5 book giveaway!


Posted by on November 3, 2009 in books, reviews


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3 responses to “Review: Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

  1. docshona

    November 5, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Your review tells me that I need to read this book as soon as possible . I already like the premise of the story. Thanks for the great review

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