Author DeWitt expresses her admiration, at one point, for "the type of person who thinks boredom a fate worse than death." And she obviously writes for this type of reader as she performs amazing literary and scholarly acrobatics in this unique and energetic novel which never flags--and certainly never bores! Although DeWitt incorporates many esoteric subjects here--Japanese language, Greek verbs, Icelandic verse, Fourier's analysis, Arabic, astrophysics, and tournament chess, bridge, and piquet, among other things--she does this so entertainingly that they enhance, rather than obscure, the human story at the heart of the novel, even for readers like me with little interest in many of these subjects.
Sybilla is the hard-working, single mother of Ludo, a 6-year-old genius who gobbles up even the most complicated subjects, seemingly overnight. Despite his precocity, however, Ludo is a very engaging and in many ways, typical, child, and the relationship between mother and son is mutually warm, respectful, and endearingly protective. Both Sybilla and Ludo are fans of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai, and this forms the framework of the novel when Ludo decides to test seven fascinating and brilliant men Sybilla has known to see which, if any, of them might be his unknown father.
This book has everything. It is funny and sad and disarming and challenging--simultaneously amusing and poignant, and thought-provoking. The many layers which emerge as Ludo engages in his quest should keep readers, critics, and book clubs intrigued and entertained for years. But the book is at heart an absorbing human story--of identity, of aspirations and achievement, and, ultimately, of the love and connection which makes our personal journeys worthwhile. A wonder-filled achievement from beginning to totally satisfying end. Mary Whipple