Sunday, January 5, 2014

An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender

An Aspergery girl becomes the world’s worst math teacher

On her nineteenth birthday, an odd girl, Mona Gray, is kicked out of the family home. Her mother wants her to be independent. Mona is most comfortable with numbers, in fact, she is in love with numbers. Somewhat improbably, she gets a job as the math teacher at a nearby elementary school. The novel is about her tragicomical adventures with her second grade class, a constrained romance with the science teacher, her hypochondriac father, and her curiosity about the reclusive hardware store owner who wears wax “mood numbers” around his neck.

This book was extremely weird, a bit like Alice Munro on LSD. Weird and dark and flinty. Completely unsentimental. The prose was detailed, beautiful and created a legitimate world. (Though a world perhaps not located in America.) How much of this story takes place in the world of reality and how much doesn’t? Mona achieves some modest successes and some spectacular failures. Her ambitions are presented as deliberately slight. Ultimately though, the stakes for me remained too low.

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