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Life After Genius

Life After Genius

4.0 9
by M. Ann Jacoby

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Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest person he knows. By age 12, he was in high school, and by 15 he was attending a top-ranking university. And now, at the tender age of 18, he's on the verge of proving the Riemann Hypothesis, a mathematical equation that has mystified academics for almost 150 years. But only days before graduation, Mead suddenly


Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest person he knows. By age 12, he was in high school, and by 15 he was attending a top-ranking university. And now, at the tender age of 18, he's on the verge of proving the Riemann Hypothesis, a mathematical equation that has mystified academics for almost 150 years. But only days before graduation, Mead suddenly packs his bags and flees home to rural Illinois. What has caused him to flee remains a mystery to all but Mead and a classmate whose quest for success has turned into a dangerous obession.

At home, Mead finds little solace. His past ghosts haunt him; his parents don't understand the agony his genius has caused him, nor his desire to be a normal kid, and his dreams seem crushed forever. He embarks on a new life's journey — learning the family business of selling furniture and embalming the dead—that disappoints and surprises all who knew him as "the young Fegley genius."

Equal parts academic thriller and poignant coming-of-age story, LIFE AFTER GENIUS follows the remarkable journey of a young man who must discover that the heart may know what the head hasn't yet learned.

Editorial Reviews

USA Today
"Filled with colorful characters, all winning and wonderful, even in their pain."
"Refreshingly offbeat...the elements of mystery are tantalizing."
Chicago Sun-Times
"Seductively absorbing...Jacoby has succeeded in uniting the traditional coming-of-age narrative with a distressing and effective account of the private cruelties that can flourish amid the turmoil that ensues when anyone attempts to take credit for the genius of another person. "
Publishers Weekly

A boy genius has a rough go of it in college in Jacoby's uneven debut. While Theodore Mead Fegley's domineering mother looked over his shoulder and his father ran a funeral home and furniture store, Mead's early years were defined by bullies and comparisons to his popular, athletic cousin Percy. At 15, Mead is accepted to the prestigious Chicago University and put on the accelerated track to graduate in three years. With the help of the eccentric Dr. Alexander, Mead is determined to solve the Riemann Hypothesis, a conundrum that has plagued mathematicians for over a century. But Mead's life is soon thrown into disarray by Herman Weinstein, a cunning frenemy and fellow math student, and, as graduation-where Mead is supposed to give a much anticipated presentation-nears, Mead grows increasingly insecure. The tropes are familiar-troubled genius, overbearing mother, kooky mentor-and Jacoby, sadly, doesn't do much to tweak the formula. It's a pleasant enough diversion, but there's nothing especially exciting or original going on. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This ought to be Mead Fegley's best time. He is just days away from college graduation at the tender age of 18 and honored with the chance to give a major presentation. Instead, he's hiding out at his family's funeral parlor looking for an escape into a different future. A boy genius pushed by his mother and terrorized by classmates, Mead heads for college with hopes of freedom and belonging. He quickly learns about academic politics but not quickly enough about friendship. Caught in intrigues beyond his understanding, he only has a few days to sort out what has gone wrong and how to fit the pieces of his life back together. The result is part mystery, part coming-of-age, and entirely engaging. This semiautobiographical novel by an award-winning book-jacket designer whose father was a math genius and whose grandfather was an undertaker is recommended for fiction collections.-Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll., NC

Kirkus Reviews
Brilliant teen struggles to come to terms with his intellect, both a gift and a curse. Jacoby's debut novel about a mathematical savant is fitfully funny and sometimes heart-rending, but it's also disjointed in a way that suggests her storytelling skills have not yet caught up with her creative impulses. Arriving home in High Grove, Ill., just days before he is slated to graduate from a Chicago university, Theodore Mead Fegley has shut down emotionally. "I haven't broken any laws or done anything wrong. Beyond that, I have nothing to tell," he warns. In flashbacks to Mead's tween years, the author depicts a preternaturally gifted student with a close relationship to his cousin Percy. Mead's unique view of the world is well captured in Jacoby's expressive prose, and in the protagonist's biting jokes about his failure to live up to the expectations thrust upon him. Constantly confronted with his proffered role as the town genius, Mead scoffs: "Ex-genius," he says. "I converted back to Catholicism a month ago." This institutional tragedy has a darker side, as the author reveals Mead's powerful and sinister hallucinations. The most potent of them, an insatiable "six-legged creature," has haunted him since seventh grade. At university, he faces new challenges, including his adolescent hormones and academic politics among his eccentric professors. He also grapples with a potent rival: Herman Weinstein, a well-connected and diabolical fellow student determined to undermine Mead's efforts to prove a 150-year-old algebraic conundrum called the Riemann Hypothesis. Jacoby provides some propulsive moments, such as Mead and Herman's ill-advised trip to hijack a Cray supercomputer. Regrettably, they'rematched by overlong, derivative subplots about Mead's oddball family, and the hero's fractured sense of self eventually damages the narrative cohesion. An admirable but flawed effort.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 5.28(h) x 1.06(d)

Meet the Author

M. Ann Jacoby has been an art director at Penguin Group USA for the past 20 years. LIFE AFTER GENIUS is her first novel.

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Life after Genius 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Smilingsally More than 1 year ago
An eighteen-year-old genius leaves college eight days before graduating. Why, you ask? The answer is revealed bit by bit as the reader looks back through Mead's tortured childhood. His cold, distant mother loves Mead conditionally when he performs well scholastically. She nags and controls him. One way he rebuffs her is by thinking of her as "the six-legged creature." Mead's indifferent father, runs a furniture store/undertaking business and seems unaware of the existence of his son. The only people who are good to Mead are his Aunt Jewel and his cousin, Percy.

Mead reveals the pain of being an emotional and social misfit. Wishing he could be an "overlooked face in the crowd," he spends most of his life hiding--struggling to stay out of the paths of potential tormentors. His one love is that of learning, particularly in the field of mathematics. Mathematicians will enjoy this novel with the many references. Truthfully, I had to look up "Carl Fredrich Gauss,""Riemann zeta-hypothesis," "Prime Number Theorem," "Method of Least Squares," "Bell Labs," and "Cray X/MP" to confirm that these names and labels exist. They all do.

Chapters are not in chronological order; they are mixed up--much like Mead's life. The tale begins eight days before graduation and each chapter reveals one puzzle piece in Mead's life so that the reader can understand the puzzling question, "Why leave college eight days before graduating?" Unhappily, the ending did not tie up all loose ends.

Note: This novel contains profanity and adult themes.
Jennmarie68 More than 1 year ago
This was a weird one for me. I liked the story, even though it was a bit odd, but I didn't really connect with the main character. But the mystery of why Mead came home was pretty engaging. I just wanted to know why. The story jumps around through different times in Mead's life. It got to be a bit confusing at times, as Mead also seems to be having a bit of a nervous breakdown throughout the story. But the jumping around really adds to the mystery of what happened and if Mead really is starting to loose his mind. Mead appears to have had a rough social life growing up. Being so smart and so much younger than the kids he's in school with made him a bit of a target for bullies and such. So it's really no surprise that once Mead goes to college young he's still an outcast. Herman, Mead's best friend/mortal enemy tries to befriend Mead for a while and has to take a HUGE step to get Mead to really open up. But as the story progresses we learn that while Herman seems to have been born with the silver spoon his life wasn't really all that easy. Even though I didn't particularly care for either of the main characters there was something about this story that I couldn't walk away from. It was so out there at times and yet so "normal". It's so hard to describe. Even the ending was a bit odd, and it left more questions than it answered. But at the same time most of the really important stuff is cleared up before we get to the end. Like I said it's hard to describe...
Emily405920 More than 1 year ago
It was a little slow starting off, especially, as with any new book, you're deciding if you even want to read it. I urge you to push through. I read some of the reviews just now and some people said they couldn't identify with the main character Mead. I most definitely could. I think you really have to be a highly organized high performance nerd who knows about all the pressure that that entails to fully grasp the gravity of Mead's situation. Mead handles thing the way any genius would, because geniouses tend to be a little crazy and quirky and great, and yes sometimes they have mental breakdowns. I highly recommend this Novel. Please don't ignore this review, This is one of the best books I have ever read and I read at least ten novels a month.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gl More than 1 year ago
When we first meet Mead, he's just turned his back on college, fled, and returned to his hometown where he's regarded with as a genius and an oddball. His family is disappointed and puzzled at his reappearance. As Mead works at the family businesses, we slowly see the sacrifices that his family went through to help him succeed at University of Chicago as well as the adjustments and cost that Mead paid in his search to succeed and to stand out. Life After Genius is a fun and interesting read. At times sad and poignant, and at times witty and humorous. It's about the cost of personal success and about the strength of love and family. It's a story that will stay with you long after finished the book. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 28, 2009), 400 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Slessman More than 1 year ago
LIFE AFTER GENIUS M. Ann Jacoby Grand Central Publishing ISBN: 978-0-446-1 - Paperback $13.99 400 pages Reviewer: Annie Slessman M. Ann Jacoby has written a debut novel that most authors strive to attain. LIFE AFTER GENIUS is the story of a young genius who struggles for normalcy in an abnormal world. Mead, the main character, noted mathematical genius now attending and soon to be graduate of a noted university, leaves his dorm room and heads for home days before his graduation. His parents struggle to understand why Mead would jeopardize the college degree he has worked so hard to attain. They inquire as to Mead's reasoning for his sudden appearance. Mead is unwilling to explain his actions because he is still struggling to understand them himself. The story takes in many personalities, the underlying reasons for their actions and Mead's attempt to understand it all. It is a tale of a young man growing up in a small town filled with the problem that most people face daily. Whether it is the loss of a loved family member, the loss of a valued friend, the fight of a young man to prove himself worthy of his family's expectations of him or simply to understand the motivations that move people through their daily lives.Mead is faced with a wealth of psychological matter that would confuse even the most intelligent of beings. This is a well written story, full of interesting characters with both usual and unusual motivation factors. It will keep a reader's interest and provides a satisfying ending. Jacoby is destined to be one of today's best fiction writers and this reviewer looks forward to her next work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReviewYourBook.com More than 1 year ago
M. Ann Jacoby
Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 9780446199711
Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for ReviewYourBook.com
5 stars
Quirky and funny¿
M. Ann Jacoby offers readers an extradinary, thought-provoking, humorous plot. Life After Genius is the story of genius, Theodore ¿Mead¿ Fegley. Only eight days before graduation, eighteen-year-old Mead drops out of college. He returns home and joins his father and uncle in selling furniture and running a funeral home. Mead is a genius; he loves to learn. However, he has few social skills. His mother has controlled him all his life, and his father is indifferent. He has faced abuse and cruelty at the hands of his peers. He was so close to graduating. Why would he drop out with only eight days to go?
The clues to why Mead dropped out of college are woven throughout Life After Genius. This book is very humorous and yet sad. People really are cruel. Mead was passed through school so fast that he never really had an opportunity to mature socially. I have known people that seemed to have a ¿kick me¿ sign on their back. Mead comes across that way. We all want our kids to excel, but maybe there is such a thing as over excelling. I really like this book. It is amazing. I highly recommend Life After Genius.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Teddy Fegley is smart, very smart - in fact he's a genius. Having endured taunts and teasing all his life in his small town of High Grove, he is more than ready to escape this - and his mother. He refers to his mother as the six legged monster for her annoying habit of sitting in a chair watching him. Teddy is excited to go to University. He is young, only fifteen, but is more than ready to start fresh and decides to go by his middle name - Mead - and leave Teddy behind.

Cruelly, Mead discovers there will be no fresh start, other than academically. He struggles to fit in and find his place, but is again subjected to ridicule. He immerses himself in his studies and excels. His work on the Riemann Hypothesis - a math equation- is second to none.

A few days before his graduation, he abruptly leaves school and runs back home. Herman, the one friend he had made, may be at the root of the leaving. Mead wonders if he has foiled Herman's scheme.

"...watching his master plan crumble to pieces before his eyes...'

What scheme, what plan, what could Herman have possibly done to Mead that would make him leave his beloved studies?

At home his mother is determined to get to the bottom of things and fix it all. His father is patient, understanding and willing to let Mead tell him what's going on when he is ready to. Mead joins his father and uncle at the family furniture and undertaking business.

We are witness to the struggles of Teddy's childhood, and Mead's efforts to overcome the 'genius' label placed on him by both his family and the town. His family is not immune to discord either. There are many unresolved issues that come to light with Mead's return to High Grove. The story is told back and forth, from High Grove to the Chicago University. We slowly piece together what has happened between Mead and Herman.

It was sometimes difficult to read of the cruelty dished out to Teddy/Mead. He gamely keeps trying, optimistic again and again. He often does what he thinks is the right thing, only to have it turn out 'wrong'.

I enjoyed this novel very much. Mead is an engaging character, with a wonderful sense of humour and an indomitable spirit. Other characters are also drawn well, eliciting strong responses. This is a truly moving story of a young man who is book smart, but struggling to find his way outside of the books. You'll find yourself cheering for and laughing with Mead as he struggles to find his place in the world.