“A Doubter’s Almanac is a long, complex novel about math, which sounds like the square root of tedium, but suspend your flight instinct for a moment. Ethan Canin writes with such luxuriant beauty and tender sympathy that even victims of Algebra II will follow his calculations of the heart with rapt comprehension.
Throughout the over 500 pages of this elegant and devastating novel, Canin writes with authority about the likes of number theory, submanifolds and differential equations. But what he writes about with even more authority is the pressure to work, to produce, to achieve and the constant thrumming anxiety felt by his central character in particular that whatever special gifts one may have been graced with at birth could just as mysteriously disappear.
The story moves not in flash-forwards or flashbacks but in flash-arounds, time as a Möbius strip: a twisted shape with a single surface and a path without exit, which circles endlessly. This leads to narrative and thematic cycles ... This intellectually imposed structure overwhelms the emotional undercurrent of the novel.