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Dancing With Einstein: A Novel    by Kate Wenner order for
Dancing With Einstein
by Kate Wenner
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In Dancing With Einstein, Kate Wenner gives us beautifully written prose, as in 'trees are lit by a low-angled sun ... A blue heron stands perfectly balanced on one leg ... the morning is cool, full of promise'. It's a philosophical, passionate and compassionate drama revolving around four memorable characters.

Scientist Jonas Hoffman is engaged with the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. The fact that his wife Virginia Pell Hoffman is a strong pacifist, puts their marriage at odds. Their daughter Marea shows promise as a budding scientist. As a child, she remembers her loving father telling her that 'a scientist sees more when she looks at the world with love.' Marea adopts Albert Einstein, a friend of the family, as 'Grandpa Albert'.

Her father, Jonas Hoffman was born in Vienna, of Jewish parents. After Jonas was sent to the United States as a student of science, his parents were killed during the Holocaust. Jonas's father raised him 'to believe in the enlightenment of humankind through science.' In the years following Jonas's death in a car crash, and blaming her mother for her parents' failing relationship, Marea abandons her home in Princetown, New Jersey. She questions whether Jonas's death was an accident or suicide.

After seven years of wandering three continents, Marea returns to New York City at the age of thirty, haunted by vivid dreams. Marea engages four therapists, telling each a different part of her life, and each one offers a different approach to her healing. During a hiatus in therapy, Marea, finally goes home again, where Virginia gives Jonas's journal to her daughter. The journal's first entry is 'Compania Hill, July 16, 1945', the date of Marea's birth. It plays a large part in Marea's self-search. Before her return to New York, Marea's anger towards her mother turns to compassion, but she is not yet able to give her mother love.

I am in awe of this author's ability to deliver such a unique and hauntingly beautiful account. Kate Wenner's Dancing With Einstein is a compelling story infused with suffering, pain, and ultimately a presence of joy. I recommend it as an ideal novel for a book club discussion.

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