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A Theory Of All Things

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Peggy Leon

In Leon's second novel (afterMother Country) the Bennetts, a pleasingly dysfunctional family, grapple with troubling events from their childhood: their mother's abandonment and brother Peter's suicide. Now scattered, the family keeps in touch via e-mails … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Peggy Leon
Publisher: Permanent Press
1 review about A Theory Of All Things

elevates art to life

  • Mar 10, 2010
This is the second of five bound galleys that I've received from the Permanent Press. The first, the Chester Chronicles, was great. Peggy Leon's A Theory of All Things may even be better. And honestly, I'm not just saying that, and I don't feel under any obligation to love all these books. But I really do love this book!

A Theory of All Things opens with emails to and from Mark, a young man who evidently committed some dire faux pas at a university function. I think I may have met him many years ago, at college, studying math. He was the one that could wax eloquent about string theory but would struggle to understand why it's not important to calculate minimal lengths for tying parcels together. He was the seriously cute one, genius in the making but not quite capable of living in this world of lesser beings. The author portrays Mark so convincingly that his mishaps evoke astonished laughter, his misunderstandings induce cringes of embarrassment, and his ham-handed attempts to compliment his girlfriend leave readers in despair.

But Mark has a family and a theory; several theories in fact, though he hopes one day to combine them. One theory in particular concerns the singularity of disaster. Can the past, before the world fell apart, actually be considered irrelevant to the present that grows out of its chaos? But who will it hurt to have their feelings and their memories so discounted?

Mark's family and friends each have their say in this book. The writer sister who stays at home, center of the family, guardian of a father who's falling apart from Alzheimers; the photographer composing images, real and imagined, into story; the artist digging beneath while missing what might be lying on the surface; and the wandering brother, Luke, who seems to have searched for home ever since he was six.

A disaster blew this family apart, but, like all disasters, it eventually proves to have been built on many things that came before. Characters create their own histories, and even the mathematician proves infinitely creative in his observations of entropy. But it isn't true that everything's winding down--not even the father whose broken memories evoke the phantom world of their lost childhoods. And strangers walking into their lives see and build on the foundations of the past.

Like a universe, expanding and contracting, the family is brought back together by circumstance. Love changes them. Memory feeds them. Risk brings them out of themselves. And Mark's last grasp for truth doesn't destroy it after all, but ends in a wonderful rebuilding and quiet revelation.

A Theory of All Things is a beautifully hopeful, vividly real and creative novel, built on fascinating characters, tragic situations, bright humor and solidly patient reality. Like one of Luke's wind-chimes, so intriguingly described that the reader sees and hears them in the written word, the trials of life are turned into something startlingly wonderful, reflecting more than sunlight, elevating life, and mathematics, into art.

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