Chapter Book – Navigating Early

Jack is feeling like a fish out of water – if that’ s the right analogy for a landlocked Kansas boy plunked down at a coastal Maine boarding school just after WWII. Still unmoored by his mother’s sudden death, Jack drifts towards a relationship – not quite friendship – with Early Auden, a very strange boy at the same school. When Early, convinced that the number Pi is telling a story that is proof his brother did not die in the war, heads off on a quest to find them both, Jack is an often reluctant companion in the week long trek through unforgiving woods filled with numerous larger-than-life characters, some nurturing – and some very much not.

This was an enjoyable book, and I was happy to pick it up every day on my lunch break. But I never felt compelled to stay up til midnight reading it, and my final assessment leaves something to be desired.

First off, I agree with Sondy at the Heavy Medal blog, that it is preposterous that a serious mathematician would be positing that pi was going to end. That’s the entire point of pi, that it’s an irrational number.

The string of coincidences was too much for me as well. I suppose it was supposed to feel like the hand of fate (or the hand of Pi?) guiding the boys to meet first a series of people who have a remarkable similarity to the characters in Early’s story, and then for those people to turn out to have strong coincidental connections to one another. I maybe could have bought the story connections with some suspension of disbelief, but the further connections where it turned out that everyone knew everyone else and they all happened to be in more or less the same place at the same time? That was too much.

What I did like: the portrayal of Early as a boy with autism before high-functioning autism was recognized as a possibility. The setting was also highly realized.

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