a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Flea Circus: A Brief Bestiary of Grief (2012)
Mandy Keifetz

A mathematically inclined woman deals with her grief over the suicide of her lover, an entomologist who runs a flea circus, in this award winning novel.

Although the cover summary describes her as a "mathematician", I do not think I would have used that term as the main character works at a bank handling high level customer complaints. Still, the book includes many mathematical references, and even some mathematical stereotyping. For instance, she considers herself to be logical/scientific and suggests that she does not understand people and depended on her biologist boyfriend to explain them to her, she describes things (metaphorically) as scalene triangles or Möbius strips, and in the most mathematically explicit portion she writes the equation of motion of an object in free fall under gravity and uses it to compute various things having to do with his final moments. Two particularly interesting passages, from a mathematical fiction point of view, are her discussions of perfect numbers and the repeating patterns in the decimal expansions of rational numbers, which the author accurately describes mathematically but also attempts to intertwine in a literary way with the story and characters.

The character who narrates the entire book is terribly depressed, and probably mentally ill. (I'm too embarrassed to tell you what disgusting things she does with the fragments of her lover's bones she finds among his ashes!) So, do not look to this book for an uplifting experience. However, it is very artistic, which is -- I'm sure -- why it won the AWP Award. It is also not terribly mathematical, but the little math that is there resonates with the overall theme and that is why I'm including it in this database.

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Works Similar to Flea Circus: A Brief Bestiary of Grief
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman
  2. I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
  3. The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am [Jo Fortere Jeg Gar, Jo Mindre Er Jeg] by Kjersti A Skomsvold
  4. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  5. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  6. Book of Knut: a novel by Knut Knudson by Halvor Aakhus
  7. The City of Devi by Manil Suri
  8. The Capacity for Infinite Happiness by Alexis von Konigslow
  9. A Universe of Sufficient Size by Miriam Sved
  10. Miss Havilland by Gay Daly
Ratings for Flea Circus: A Brief Bestiary of Grief:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)

MotifMental Illness, Female Mathematicians, Romance,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)