A Kindle Bestseller in Mathematics Research

available in hardcover at Lulu and  paperback at Amazon,

Product Details
  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Scattered Light Publications
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 144213254X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442132542
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Trailer:

Cast of Characters

* Nela: abstract thinker turned altruist for the love of a child
* Jackson: altruist on a broader scale, he loves Nela, understands her need to work, and to do what she thinks is right for her child; he reserves the same rights for himself, and therein lies the stalemate
* Ranu: an orphan who changes the lives of the lovers

Memorable Quotes
* “How many cousins are worth one brother?”
spoken by Nela, explaining Hamilton's Rule to Ashoke just before he betrays her.

Setting & Important Places
* Kerala, India; London, England

* Engineers Without Borders:

First Sentence
*As long as the man kept his sunglasses on, Nela could assume he was asleep.

Main Themes & Symbolism
* altruism: If two brothers and seven cousins were drowning, who would you save? Hamilton's Rule specifies the conditions under which reproductive altruism evolves: r × B > C where B is the benefit (in number of offspring equivalents) gained by the recipient of the altruism, C is the cost (in number of offspring equivalents) suffered by the donor.R is the degree of relatedness. So, how related must Nela and Ranu, or Nela and Jackson be, in order for one to rescue the other?

* the mathematics of collectives: Nela studies this subject, and Jackson helps her discover a new fact about pursuit and cohesion in birds' flocking behavior --- each bird only follows the bird in front of it, although they appear to be engaged in a complicated group choreography. In the novel, who follows who -or what- is a central metaphor.

*One Sunday, my husband was reading the paper when he burst into laughter. "What? What?" I asked. He showed me a cartoon of two brothers and eight cousins drowning. "Well, that's macabre."

"No, that's Hamilton's Rule," he told me, "which tells us under what conditions altruism is manifested. The man on the shore must determine how many nephews are worth one brother." Just the scaffolding I needed for Rescuing Ranu! It would be interesting to put my protagonist, the headstrong mathematician Nela, in a situation where she would be forced to go from abstract thinker to selfless guardian.

Other questions arose from that. How related do you have to be to make the cost-benefit ratio of saving someone favorable? And what of the relationships not based on blood? Since Nela had to undergo some kind of transformation, what could be the catalyst for such a change? A man? A child? Possibly. Love could soften the emotional scar tissue Nela had built up through years of straddling two cultures. The plight of immigrants, the lives they make elsewhere, and the families they leave behind, raised yet another question: how much can a person stand to lose? When confronted with dueling loyalties, which part of a divided self goes, and what stays? Themes of sacrifice, survival, and the mysterious alchemy of love began to take shape on the page---and suddenly I was in business!

Discussion Questions

1. Does Nela choose her own dharma? Does Jackson? Jackson is the only man Nela has ever met who seems completely supportive of her work, yet Nela does not entirely trust him. Is he for real?

2. Is Nela's transformation from abstract thinker to selfless guardian motivated by the love of the child, a sense of duty, a romantic idea of family and home, or something else?

3. Why does Ashoke try to ruin Nela? Were you surprised by his disregard for their family tie?

4. Did you expect Jackson to trade his personal happiness with Nela for his altruism toward society at large? Couldn't he and Nela have hammered out a more satisfying negotiation?

5. Do you believe Jackson will eventually make his way home? After all, Nela was able to find him in Kerala without trying very hard. One bird follows only the one in front of it.

6. The idea of flocking is as much an underpinning of the story as the idea of Hamilton's Rule. In what way does your community apply these natural laws?

7. Will Nela be happy in the culture she once rejected? How does the idea of shame factor in? In what ways is she Eastern? Western?