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Are you reading The Other Einstein along with us during the Big Library Read? Join us in a conversation below, or use these questions to discuss with your Book Club or those around you!
- Discuss the various ways that gender affects the characters in this novel. Do you think gender would influence Mileva’s life in the same way if she lived today?
- How do the characters in the book—Mileva, Albert, their friends, their parents—experience religion, and does that change over the course of the story? How do Mileva’s and Albert’s different understandings of religiosity impact their relationship to each other?
- This novel can be seen as a quest for understanding, a search for the divine in the natural order of the world. How does the study of math and physics become this quest for Albert and Mileva? Are they, either separately or together, successful in their crusade? Does unpuzzling life’s mysteries have disparate meanings for them?
- Betrayal is a recurrent motif in the book and an unfortunate reality in Mileva’s life. What forms of betrayal does she experience? How does her reaction to those betrayals propel the story forward, for better or worse? Has Mileva engaged in betrayal herself?
- Discuss the setting of the book, a world on the brink of astounding scientific discoveries, political upheaval, and ultimately horrible World War I atrocities. Does this historical setting affect the characters? What role, if any, does it play in shaping their lives?
- Over the course of the novel, we learn a great deal about Mileva’s childhood and early adult years. What life events led her to math and science? What hurdles did she have to surmount to even get her footing on that path?
- From a very young age, Mileva assumes that she will never marry due to her physical disability. How is this disability both a blessing and a curse? How does her limp impact her differently at different life stages?
- Mileva and Albert are drawn to each other from the beginning of their years together at the Polytechnic. What qualities compel them toward one another? Is their relationship “inevitable,” as Mileva believes?
- Mileva and Albert share the language of science, and it knits them together. Are they equal scientific partners from the start of their relationship? Do they become the “bohemians” they so frequently discuss?
- Leaving Lieserl behind with her mother while she awaits Albert in Zürich and Bern is a huge, pivotal moment for Mileva. Do you think she made the right choice? Should she have stayed with Lieserl and disobeyed Albert’s request?
- The loss of Lieserl impacts Mileva tremendously, yet she doesn’t fully share her feelings with Albert. Why does she keep her devastation from him? Do you think she should have been more open with him?
- On several occasions throughout the novel, the characters undergo metamorphoses. What are Mileva’s changes, and what instigates them? Do some of them frustrate you or take too long? Does Albert change during the course of the novel? If so, how would you describe his evolution?
- While Mileva does not form friendships until rather late in her life, the ties she forms are deep. How do her friendships and her acquaintances with other women factor in her ultimate life choices?
- Albert Einstein is arguably one of the most famous figures of the twentieth century, but The Other Einstein shares a story about him that you might not have otherwise heard. Did this novel change your perception of him? About the stories we are told regarding other women in history?
You can also gain insight into the title by reading a conversation with the author, Marie Benedict!
For more information about the Big Library Read, start here.