The Theory of Not Quite Everything by Kara Gnodde

The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything is the debut novel from South African author Kara Gnodde. Since the death of their parents, thirteen years previously, Mimi Brotherton has looked after her brother Art, who is a mathematical genius and somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Mimi has made a lot of sacrifices over the years so that Art can work on his research. At the start of the book she has reached breaking point and gives up her museum job to work with her friend Rey as a trainee foley artist (interesting to learn what this involves). Art has difficulty with social and personal relationships, and does not appreciate how trapped and isolated Mimi feels. When she decides to use a dating app, Art thinks the whole process can be worked out using an algorithm, but Mimi does not believe maths is the answer to everything. She meets Frank at a maths conference, but does not give her real name as she wants to be accepted for herself and not as Art’s sister. At first, Frank seems too good to be true, but Art views him with suspicion. From then on, once the seed of doubt had been planted I had trouble shaking it off. Does Frank have an ulterior motive – you’ll have to keep on reading to find out.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Mimi and Art so we get a balanced view of what they are both thinking. The characters have depth and do develop as the story progresses. At times it was painful to read, but this was balanced by humour, although you could never describe The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything as a romantic comedy.  Art’s autism is treated in a sensitive manner, but I really felt for Mimi as he had real trouble understanding how she feels. I knew nothing about this unusual book before I started reading, but I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely look out for Kara Gnodde’s next book. Thanks to Pan Macmillan, Mantle and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.