After reading Aimee Bender’s book, I want to hook up Mona Gray, the main character, with Mike Doughty, the former lead singer of the band Soul Coughing. If the music of Soul Coughing were a book, it would be an ‘Invisible Sign of My Own.’
The whole time I read the book I had the song ‘4 out of 5’ running through my head. Specifically the line that goes, ‘her knees thrust in one direction/like the symbol of math/the symbol meaning greater than.’
Mona Gray is in love with math. Math is the only thing she doesn’t quit. She quits love, running, and sex, most everything else she’s good at. But not math, her love of numbers and math is much greater than her fear of succeeding.
The order found in math cannot be found in Mona’s life and that’s what makes her such a remarkable and memorable character. Mona’s got some quirks, she knocks on wood until her knuckles bleed, she lets second graders run her math class, and she eats soap to repress her sexuality. Sounds weird, but makes for some fascinating reading.
I was quickly drawn into Mona’s world. A world where a math teacher cum hardware store owner displays his mood using wax numbers that he wears around his neck. A world where a black flag with a zero on it proves to be a harbinger of death.
Despite her quirks, you grow to adore Mona and worry over the impending doom that seems to surround her. You wait with bated breath, turning each page for the cataclysmic climax and you won’t be disappointed.
Bender’s amazing. Her phrases are short and concise, falling from the page like machine gun shot, yet the story flows quickly. Much like a Soul Coughing song, short bursts of brilliance that blend together magically.