theory of all things book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

A Theory of All Things by Peggy Leon can only be described as interesting. The novel is filled with quirkiness, knowledge, characters both charming and alienating, and situations that are so hard to believe, yet so very relatable. Needless to say, the book is very complex and contains many layers, yet never loses the reader in too many images or too much dialogue.

Leon tells the story of a group of siblings: Mary, Mark, Ellie, Sara, and Luke who are all affected profoundly and differently by the abandonment of their mother and the suicide of their brother Peter. All the siblings are very unusual and all very connected both by blood and the cosmos in spite of their differences.

Mary is the surrogate mother who never left home and is the primary caregiver to their father, Frank, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Mark is a physicist, a blunt and often clueless genius who massively lacks people and conversation skills. Ellie and Sara are twins and artists, one in Greece, the other in New York, each with their own new discoveries that they have to sort through. Luke is also an artist, although very little is said about him.

When family circumstances arise, the siblings all come together in their childhood home. Much of the story is told through the email correspondence between everyone and the novel progresses in chapters divided by everyone’s respective point of view. I love when authors do this; I think it adds a level of dimension to scenes and characters that lacks if only told through one person’s eyes.

The start of the book is slow and seems to loop endlessly. Mark and Sara are the hardest characters to sympathize with and the constant use of scientific terms and theories in Mark’s chapters make his early sections difficult to troll through. His character is redeemed and shown in a new light as the novel ends, but I never really liked or got into Sara. Luke, Mary, and Ellie are fun to follow throughout. When Luke’s girlfriend Willow joins the family, A Theory of All Things really warms up.

Peggy Leon does an excellent job of keeping the characters separate and entwined at the same time. They are individuals with very different tastes and lives, which is never forgotten or ignored. And yet, above all else they are, and remain, a family. After the slow start, Peggy Leon was really able to captivate me with the unfolding of the story and I found myself pushing through quickly in order to see where the next person would lead the novel. A Theory of All Things is a thoughtful and provoking book, one that shows that family trumps all else in the grand scheme of things.

Lauren is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to working on her own personal writing, editing Messy Magazine, and writing for multiple sites, Lauren is also currently pursuing her MFA in English. More of her work can be found at : messymagazine.org and goldiesays.wordpress.com.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.