One of our recommended books is The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything by Kara Gnodde


With the offbeat charm of The Rosie Project and generous warmth of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, a wry, moving debut novel about a pair of unforgettable siblings and a love triangle of sorts—one with math as its beating heart.

Meet Art and Mimi Brotherton. Devoted siblings and housemates, they’re bound together by the tragic death of their parents. Mathematical genius Art relies on logic, while Mimi prefers to follow her heart.

When Mimi decides she needs more from life than dutifully tending to her brilliant brother,

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With the offbeat charm of The Rosie Project and generous warmth of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, a wry, moving debut novel about a pair of unforgettable siblings and a love triangle of sorts—one with math as its beating heart.

Meet Art and Mimi Brotherton. Devoted siblings and housemates, they’re bound together by the tragic death of their parents. Mathematical genius Art relies on logic, while Mimi prefers to follow her heart.

When Mimi decides she needs more from life than dutifully tending to her brilliant brother, she asks for his help to find love. Art agrees, but on one condition: that she find her soulmate using a strict mathematical principle. Things seem promising, until Mimi meets Frank: a romantic, spontaneous stargazer who’s also a mathematician. Despite Mimi’s obvious affection for the quirky Frank, Art is wary of him from their very first encounter.

As Art’s mistrust of Frank grows, so do Mimi’s feelings, and the siblings’ relationship is brought to a breaking point. Something about Frank doesn’t quite add up, and only Art can see it . . .

The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything is a tender, intelligent and uplifting novel about brothers and sisters, true love in all its forms, and how the answers to life’s biggest questions follow a logic of their own.

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  • Harper Paperbacks
  • Paperback
  • February 2023
  • 368 Pages
  • 9780063266018

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About Kara Gnodde

Kara Gnodde is the author of The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything

KARA GNODDE was born in Johannesburg and raised on a diet of Dr. Seuss and no TV. After graduating from the University of Cape Town, she joined Saatchi & Saatchi in London as a strategic planner—work that required head and heart, her favorite kind. She lived in Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore before settling back in the UK with her husband and three children. A discussion on the radio about a math problem that could change the world, or perhaps just help keep her desk tidy, gave her a place to start The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything, her debut novel.



One of Cosmopolitan’s Best Books of 2023

“If this novel about mathematicians were a math problem, and Kara Gnodde set out to prove that love is varied, unpredictable, and infinite in its capacity to expand, then she’s done it. I adored this quirky, big-hearted book.”  — Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes

“A delightfully clever tale of first love, loss and an unforgettable sibling relationship.” — Marianne Cronin, author of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything is such a special novel. Tender, unique and uplifting, it explores sibling love, romantic love and the love between friends. Such an accomplished debut.”Beth O’Leary, internationally bestselling author of The Flatshare and The No-Show

“Kara Gnodde’s debut novel is an exquisite piece of writing that is as intricate and beautiful as mathematics itself. Do not miss this one.” — Annabel Monaghan, author of Nora Goes Off Script 

“Sorrow, warmth, and tension mix in this unique and compelling novel.” — Booklist

“A spirited debut. . . . Readers will be rewarded.”Publishers Weekly

Discussion Questions

1. Mimi and Art’s bond is central to the story. How does their relationship compare to yours with your own siblings? Do you think it’s true that our siblings know our “truest self”?

2. In your mind, how and why did Mimi allow her life to become so subjugated to Art’s? Was it in her nature, or the nature of their relationship, or did events conspire to limit her?

3. Mimi believes that Art occupies a disproportionate share of his parents’ attention, especially their mother’s. Do you think this is accurate? How does her perspective affect her adult life?

4. How do you think Mimi and Frank’s story might have unfolded if Mimi hadn’t given him a fake name to start? Is Mimi right when she says their relationship is founded on a lie?

5. Which of the characters in the book do you relate to most closely, and why?

6. Do you think Art’s initial concerns about Frank were well-founded? Or was he reaching for reasons to reject Frank?

7. Are you a “37%er” or a “rule-of- thumber”? Do you agree with Art that “math is everywhere,” and that mathematics makes life better, or is its influence insidious?

8. What qualities make Mimi so well-suited to being a foley artist? What does her success in that field reveal about her as a character?

9. Rey’s surprising admission towards the end of the novel brings a certain kind of peace to Art and Mimi. Do you think she should have told them earlier, or would they not have been ready to hear it?

10. What do you think is next for Art, Mimi, Frank, and Rey?




Time (t) = 0


When Mimi stands at her door, she knows that the news is not good. Her body is familiar with the rules.

“Miss Brotherton? Naomi?”

She points inside to invite the police officers in. Her words won’t come.

It’s a man and a woman. They brush non-existent fluff from their sleeves as they step across the threshold. They have the appearance of suicide bombers, packaged with padding and badges and belts and clips, a walkie-talkie each, many pockets. But it’s terrible information—not a device—that they’re about to detonate.

They take up so much space in her hallway she has to inch around them to lead the way down the hallway to the kitchen, where she can ask the question she thinks she knows the answer to. Is he dead? She pushes the mail on the floor with her foot as if to tidy up. She sees his name on an envelope. She pulls her sweater down to straighten herself out and smudges imagined mascara residue from beneath her eyes, attending to some abstract decorum required for these moments, just before everything falls apart.

It’s impossible to prepare someone for the news of a loved one’s death. But there are rules for such moments, and Mimi has seen them in action before.

She’d tell you: don’t procrastinate. The person will already know something is wrong from your demeanour, from the fact that you’re calling or visiting at all. We send countless signals without knowing. Their body will be preparing for an emergency.

Use plain and simple language. Start by saying the person has died. This leaves no room for doubt. Don’t use euphemisms—like “passed on,” or “they’re in a better place now.” “Lost” is particularly unhelpful—just imagine.

The truth is essential.

You may need to repeat yourself.

And don’t make promises that you can’t keep.

Mimi’s always been grateful that she’d been told by professionals. Dead straight.

She remembers last time—sitting on the corner of the coffee table, staring at a dry-cleaning tag that her mother had left on the rug. Her brother Art was talking. The police officers had gone.

“We need to break this down into parts,” Art had said, in a voice stunned into the rhythm of a metronome. He’d looked around, as if for a ruler with which to measure the parts of the shattered whole. “And”—he said, his voice faltering—“plan for our future together.”

“Yes,” said Mimi.

And, just like that, he took her hand.

This time, standing in her hallway, she’s barefoot and alone. The police follow in their boots, and she feels like a prisoner with an army walking behind her, past the mirror where her reflection is of a different person to the one who walked this hall a minute ago, checked herself in the glass, and plumped her lips.

The officers step into the kitchen, still holding their hats out in front of them.

“Can I offer you something?” she asks. Tea would forestall them, but they never accept anything.

“We’re all right, thank you,” says the man.

“Perhaps you’d like to sit down,” says the woman.

There’s no going back now.

Mimi lowers herself onto the sofa, her arms wanting to reach for her brother. For him to be there with her while she does this, but already, she knows that will not be possible.

“Is it Art?” she says. “My brother?”

“Miss Brotherton—”

“Is he dead?” she hears herself say. “My brother. He’s dead, right?” The room dissolves into strips that are floating away, nothing has substance, light swallows matter.

“Your brother’s had an accident. He’s in hospital and he—”

Hospital? He’s okay?” She snatches up her jacket in one movement.

“Perhaps take a moment.” The officer points back to the sofa. “There are a few things you might wish to know.”

Art’s been hit by a car.

A small car.

“Smallish,” corrects PC Payne. “He’s badly hurt.” The driver of the car stopped, Mimi learns, and is very shaken up. Art’s unconscious—he caught the side or the wing mirror, they’re not sure which, and hit his head. He leaped out in front of the car, apparently, with no warning.

N-n-no,” she says, her old stammer appearing, on cue. “Why would he do that?”

The driver called an ambulance and spoke to police at the scene. “I’m so sorry, Miss Brotherton, I know this is difficult. Is there anyone you’d like us to call?”

“N-n-no. Thank you.”

“Who would you normally call?”

Nothing feels normal right now.

Despite her initial demurral, she tries her friend Rey, but Rey doesn’t answer.

“And my boyfriend, I can try him too.”

She only gets his voicemail. “I thought you were him at the door.” Her voice catches.

They offer to drive Mimi to the hospital. “Thank you,” she says, “thank you so much.” She pulls on her shoes and puts her coat back on. PC Payne helps with the arms.

The police vehicle, an unmarked car, has no flashing blue light. It surprises Mimi that her feet can lift to step into it, but next thing she’s staring at a black headrest in front of her. She can see PC Robert’s sombre profile, his fleshy ear. She finds herself wondering if they’d be cracking jokes if she wasn’t in the car, like they do on TV.

She listens to other incidents intrude. “No further injuries, Grosvenor Park,” calls the in-car radio. “Apparently vehicle was stolen.”

“11-19, via the hospital,” says PC Payne, then turns down the volume, though a crackle remains constant. “You warm enough?” she asks. Kind. They do a U-turn at the dead end in the road and head off past the familiar doors of the neighbourhood—but as if transported in a spacecraft, so alien does it feel. Mimi grips the handle, and notices the door is locked.

There’s a small Dell computer keyboard between the seats and a squashed paper cup wedged into the pocket behind PC Roberts.

The sliding unnamed beast that lurks beneath their conversation, that the police have not said out loud, but Mimi feels is everywhere, is the suggestion that Art has tried to die.

I didn’t mean what I said, she telegraphs, trying to reach her brother from the car. I didn’t mean it.

Though of course, she had.

“Our stop ’n search numbers are trash,” says Roberts to Payne. “It’s going to be brutal in there tomorrow morning.”

She needs to get to Art’s bedside. Tell him she’s there. That she’ll never leave.

She’d told him she was going. But now, she makes a deal.

Please, she prays, to a higher power that she doesn’t believe in. Let him be okay and I promise I won’t go.

They drive towards Art.

It’s not the first deal she’s made.

The deal of her life has always been: she is ordinary so that Art could be special.

“Don’t bother him, he’s busy,” her mother would say.

Art never understood how boring his math could be for everyone else. “It’s not magic, you know,” said Mimi. “It’s just math.”

“Ah, but it is, you see.” A light would come on in his eyes, stars lit up inside him. “Take fractals.” He showed her the seahorse-tail patterns generated by mathematical equations. “These are reproduced again and again into exquisitely small, infinitely small, identical details, all over nature. Pineapples and ice crystals, forests and river deltas, the veins in your body.” He took her wrist and turned it over to reveal the blue threads under her pale skin. “Look how they fan out, fan out, fan out; it’s all numbers. Next time you eat Romanesco broccoli, see the pattern within the pattern within the pattern.” His hands feathered up and his fingers pleated over themselves, making brackets, balancing equations on both sides, raising things to the power of ten as he tried to explain, breathless. Mimi could not hold onto the tail of the comet. She was always left standing, her feet firmly on earth.

She’d had her brief time out there, orbiting the universe, trying to find love—a life of her own—and it hadn’t worked. She’d have to stay home, reduced back to a data point in the great grand story of her genius brother and his all-important math.

The lift doors open on the third floor of the hospital. Aluminium trollies park along the green walls like taxis waiting in a rank.

Mimi follows PC Payne. “Brotherton? Came in this evening?”

“Naomi Brotherton,” says Mimi. “I’m his sister.”

“ICU. Farthing Ward. Down the hallway to the seating area.”

They walk down the hospital tunnel. All the resolutions Mimi had made about her life while she was away are being swallowed behind her with every step.

“Oh my god.”

Art is flat on his back—coffin flat—his neck held rigid in a brace.

The sight stuns Mimi. Fluorescent lights intensify the daze. She feels her middle lift, as though she’s watching a diorama of the scene from above.

He lies on the bed, breath shallow and even, tubes rising and falling in sync with his chest. Tubes, liquids, toxins. Electrics, needles. Beds on wheels. He wouldn’t like it. The wheels make her feel queasy too—they look ready to move out at a moment’s notice. Mimi stands at the foot of his bed. “Can I touch him?” she asks a nurse.

“You should. We need him to hold on.”

Still feeling as if she’s floating, she holds onto her brother’s feet as though they are pedals. As if by some transfer of energy, she might get him going again.

The Aircel blanket falls between Art’s legs, there’s a cavity right up to his groin; she can make out his kneecaps. He’s got even thinner in the week she’s been gone. His forehead looks waxy and cool. It’s slightly tipped back and makes his nose look bigger on his face, haughty somehow.

“Artie,” she says. She wills his body for a sign. But his arms lie flaccid; no hand signals, no blinks. He isn’t going to flash his eyes open or tap out a hello with his index finger.

His index finger, on the arm that she broke. When it happened—the whole, terrible, godawful thing—her friend Rey had promised that Art would be fine.