Theory of Remainders
At fifty-two, psychiatrist Philip Adler is divorced, alone, and gutted of passion. When a funeral draws him back to his ex-wife's homeland of France, the trip reunites him with a trauma he has struggled to forget: the brutal death of his teenage daughter fifteen years earlier. Prodded by his former brother-in-law and stirred by the unspent embers of his marriage, he embarks on a mission to resolve lingering questions about this past, hoping to heal himself along the way. The search leads to a disturbed man who may hold more answers than anyone expects-if only Philip can hear what he's trying to say. A suspenseful literary novel set in the lush backgrounds of Normandy, Theory of Remainders explores the secret ties between love, trauma, and language.

Theory of Remainders Details

TitleTheory of Remainders
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 1st, 2013
PublisherWinter Goose Publishing
ISBN-139780988904910
Rating
GenreFiction, Cultural, France, Mystery

Theory of Remainders Review

  • Robert
    January 1, 1970
    Theory of Remainders is a haunting thriller about a man’s search for—and subsequent obsession with— the truth, the connections developed with places as well as with people, and the associations made with and acceptance (or denial) of the tragedies that befall us. Mr. Carpenter deftly paints a haunted portrait of Philip Adler, a wretchedly wrung-dry protagonist who finds new purpose when he revisits the greatest trauma of his life—the death of his teenage daughter. The story details perfectly his Theory of Remainders is a haunting thriller about a man’s search for—and subsequent obsession with— the truth, the connections developed with places as well as with people, and the associations made with and acceptance (or denial) of the tragedies that befall us. Mr. Carpenter deftly paints a haunted portrait of Philip Adler, a wretchedly wrung-dry protagonist who finds new purpose when he revisits the greatest trauma of his life—the death of his teenage daughter. The story details perfectly his descent into and out of grief and, eventually, into full-flung mania as he desperately searches for answers. The setting is vivid, the characters real, and the process is gorgeously rendered. There is no fluff here, just the absolute essentials for telling an utterly engrossing tale start to finish. Mr. Carpenter is in perfect control of his craft, and the results are dazzlingly compelling.
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  • Brian Melendez
    January 1, 1970
    His ex-wife's mother's funeral draws psychiatrist Philip Adler from his comfortable practice in Boston, where he lives alone with a cat named Edith, to a small town in Normandy, the seat of his ex-wife's family and the scene of his marriage and of his daughter's murder 15 years earlier. The unexpected journey reopens old wounds and, as Dr. Adler grows obsessed with the unsolved mystery of finding his long-dead daughter's remains, he finds himself trapped but unwelcome in rural France amidst the His ex-wife's mother's funeral draws psychiatrist Philip Adler from his comfortable practice in Boston, where he lives alone with a cat named Edith, to a small town in Normandy, the seat of his ex-wife's family and the scene of his marriage and of his daughter's murder 15 years earlier. The unexpected journey reopens old wounds and, as Dr. Adler grows obsessed with the unsolved mystery of finding his long-dead daughter's remains, he finds himself trapped but unwelcome in rural France amidst the embers of his relationship with his now-remarried ex-wife and her community. His search leads him to several conversations with the now-thirtysomething man who confessed to the murder, and who seems to be playing mind games with the still-grieving protagonist. Dr. Adler must psychoanalyze both himself and his daughter's murderer in order to keep his quest from descending into madness.The book is as much about unraveling the past as it is about telling a story in the present and, in that respect, it reminded me more than a little of Embers by Sandor Marai. (Embers tells the story of two inseparable companions from boyhood, who meet for one last time in their old age -- more than 40 years after they last saw each other and the woman who came between them. They talk from dinner until dawn as they explore the mystery of a few taut days more than four decades earlier that broke their relationship and bent their lives. Those events, which neither man fully understands, illuminate questions of friendship and love, loyalty and betrayal, honor and truth -- which the two men explore for a night by dying firelight until morning parts them forever.)Theory of Remainders benefits from its author's deep understanding of French culture, as well as his evident familiarity with psychoanalysis. Seen through the protagonist's eyes, nearly every problem in the book becomes an exercise in plumbing the characters' subconscious depths, which draws the reader into the complex motivations and influences behind the events -- past and present -- that drive Dr. Adler's quest for his daughter.My only quibble with the story is that the author sometimes gets too familiar with the French language and culture, and forgets to let the reader in on the joke. Starting from the first chapter, there are words and phrases in French -- words and phrases that are probably obvious to the initiated -- that go untranslated; most of them were probably unimportant but, since I don't speak French, I had no way of knowing whether I was missing out on trivial pleasantries or critical nuance.The book was a satisfying read -- not quite brilliant or compelling, but interesting and engaging. The narrative flows effortlessly, punctuated by the rare literary sparkle ("Memories nuzzled at his mind's gate like kenneled dogs.").
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  • Jeffrey Pfaller
    January 1, 1970
    Theory of Remainders is a phenomenal tale about the consuming nature of loss. It explores the tried and true story of a child being murdered and the parent or emotionally invested detective uncovering the truth in a new way, by setting the actual crime fourteen years in the past and examining the effects place and time have on the protagonist, Phillip Adler. The novel does a great job using subtle cues to show how inescapable something as traumatic as losing a child is. At one point, Adler attem Theory of Remainders is a phenomenal tale about the consuming nature of loss. It explores the tried and true story of a child being murdered and the parent or emotionally invested detective uncovering the truth in a new way, by setting the actual crime fourteen years in the past and examining the effects place and time have on the protagonist, Phillip Adler. The novel does a great job using subtle cues to show how inescapable something as traumatic as losing a child is. At one point, Adler attempts to leave the Normandy region multiple times, each time being drawn back inexplicably because he's daughter's body has yet to be found. In fact, the entire trip to France is prompted by an inability to resolve the past, and the desire to have everything in its right place.It's a very human story, in that Adler's relationships with his ex-wife, her husband, their daughter who bears a heartbreaking resemblence to his own daughter, their extended family and the inhabitants of the town he used to live in. But the story of discovering his daughter's body, even though the killer has been found and committed in a mental institution is executed well and provides plenty of twists and turns without feeling contrived. Carpenter's use of language and knowledge of the tension between American and French culture is also a strength of the book, truly transporting you to a region infamous for it's involvement with World War II. It's easy to forget that a people and their communities inhabit this place.
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  • Colleen
    January 1, 1970
    Thinking back to 4th grade division problems, sometimes nothing produced more anxiety than a remainder. Had you missed something, made a mistake? Psychiatrist Phillip Adler has been haunted by a remainder—the missing body of his teenage daughter Sophie. Her murderer has been locked in a French psychiatric ward for the last 15 years, unable or unwilling to tell where her body is.With his life slowly falling apart, Phillip returns to France for a family funeral. In this small town where he once li Thinking back to 4th grade division problems, sometimes nothing produced more anxiety than a remainder. Had you missed something, made a mistake? Psychiatrist Phillip Adler has been haunted by a remainder—the missing body of his teenage daughter Sophie. Her murderer has been locked in a French psychiatric ward for the last 15 years, unable or unwilling to tell where her body is.With his life slowly falling apart, Phillip returns to France for a family funeral. In this small town where he once lived life has moved on--his ex-wife has remarried and even has a daughter. Now that he has returned he has a chance--perhaps his only chance--to solve this question once and for all, but he only has a few days. The townspeople are hostile to Phillip’s dredging up the past and his daughter’s murderer only speaks in riddles. How far is he willing to go to heal his life?Theory of Remainders is a tautly written page-turner with rich imagery and an absorbing plot.
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    This was a quick, engaging read that I enjoyed to the end(although I was left with the question, "What's the full story of Melanie?!") The book left me guessing until the end, and would have made a great book to take along as a travel/airplane read. The characters are complex enough without getting in the way of the story, which is one of the reasons it was book that kept you turning pages, even when you should be turning out the light to get some sleep. As an additional bonus, the author paints This was a quick, engaging read that I enjoyed to the end(although I was left with the question, "What's the full story of Melanie?!") The book left me guessing until the end, and would have made a great book to take along as a travel/airplane read. The characters are complex enough without getting in the way of the story, which is one of the reasons it was book that kept you turning pages, even when you should be turning out the light to get some sleep. As an additional bonus, the author paints some wonderful visuals of the French countryside and village life. Recommended!
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    The book gets points in my book for first for being a Minnesota author. But its well written characters, realistic portrayal of family (and exes), touching emotional struggles of love and loss, surprising plot twists and turns, and uncomfortably real descriptions of small-town life seals the deal---this is a really satisfying read.
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  • Sheila Banning
    January 1, 1970
    Part mystery, part intense emotional excavation, this exploration of the paralysis of grief and what it takes for one man to move on is both gripping and beautifully written. You won't be able to put it down.
  • Ro
    January 1, 1970
    It seems the underlying theme in this book was the complex relationships of families. The added elements of loss, grief, mental illness, the search for closure, languages, geography, and cultural differences made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    This is probably the best book I've read in the last year or two. More than a mystery, beautifully written, wonderful characters.
  • Nikki Montes
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book mostly because of the way language was used and the play on words. The author is pretty brilliant!
  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book because it gave me a lot to think about. It's a linguistic mystery of sorts. A man's daughter was murdered long ago but her body was never found. The person convicted of the crime is mentally ill and finds it impossible to speak truths in an obvious way. It raised many questions in my mind - do we always speak the truth even when we want to? Do we sometimes speak truths that even we do not understand?
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  • Roger Brunyate
    January 1, 1970
    DaughterlessBooks and their covers; you never can tell, right? I was attracted by the misty landscape on the cover of this one, presumably French, but it turns out to be a much more robust book entirely. I didn't know Winter Goose Publishing, and the budget press quality of the printing left me wondering—but if all their books are as terrific as this one, I'll be looking into their catalogs.Let me summarize through Chapter Two. Philip Adler is a Boston psychiatrist. His struggles with a sullen t DaughterlessBooks and their covers; you never can tell, right? I was attracted by the misty landscape on the cover of this one, presumably French, but it turns out to be a much more robust book entirely. I didn't know Winter Goose Publishing, and the budget press quality of the printing left me wondering—but if all their books are as terrific as this one, I'll be looking into their catalogs.Let me summarize through Chapter Two. Philip Adler is a Boston psychiatrist. His struggles with a sullen teenage client in the first chapter culminate in a sudden temper tantrum. No sooner is this halted than a call comes from his ex-wife in France to say that her mother has died in their small Normandy town of Yvetot, and she would appreciate his attendance at the funeral in two days' time. So as Philip packs, we learn their back-story. He met his wife Yvonne while doing graduate work in Paris; he remained in France after they married, and they had a daughter, Sophie. Then, when Sophie was entering her teens, she was raped and murdered by a local boy, Édouard Morin, who was subsequently diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed to institutional care. Philip's marriage with Yvonne did not survive the murder; he returned to the States and developed a successful practice; she subsequently remarried and had another daughter, Margaux, who is now about the age Sophie was when she died.As Philip was flying across the Atlantic, on page 19 of the book, I found myself asking what I was expecting from this novel, what he was expecting? After all, there is no mystery here; the criminal has confessed and is in custody. There seems little possibility of repairing the marriage; Yvonne at least has moved on. I felt the doors of possibility closing still further when, jet-lagged, he sleeps in and misses the funeral. And the family meeting at the lawyer's the next day has little of substance to add. But curiously, the more Scott Dominic Carpenter reduced the options, the more interested I became, since by this time (from the first pages, actually) I had come to trust his sense of character and drama.I do not want to say too much more. In a sense, this does develop into a mystery, since there are things about that terrible week that have been swept under the carpet for fifteen years, and Sophie's body was never found. Philip's interactions with Yvonne are still filled with unpredictable emotion. He is barely tolerated by her new husband, Hervé, and there are factions in Yvetot that try to drive him out of town (maybe a little melodramatic?). The main reason why Philip stays is the possibility of interviewing the murderer, Morin, who says he has something to tell him, but keeps fobbing him off with riddles in a variety of languages. It is here that one is most aware that Carpenter is a professor of French literature in real life. Not only does this give him a marvelous understanding of small-town France, but clearly a fascination with the ambiguities of language. Perhaps the denouement (for there is one) is a little too cerebral, a little too dependent on the niceties of decoding required of translators and psychiatrists alike. But the author has an undeniable dramatic sense, and the gift of fleshing out his ideas with believable characters; we feel for their pain, and ultimately find contentment in their closure. A wonderful book.
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  • Cate Holahan
    January 1, 1970
    Words have meaning beyond what Webster says about them. They have sound. They have music. The tone with which they are spoken can alter their intent. "Come on," for example, can be a sarcastic quip, playful plea, or sexy appeal. Is the phrase whined or whinnied?Words are, of course, writers' favorite playthings. But novelist Scott Dominic Carpenter is better at playing them than most. As a result, reading a Theory of Remainders is akin to solving a linguistic puzzle in which every utterance by C Words have meaning beyond what Webster says about them. They have sound. They have music. The tone with which they are spoken can alter their intent. "Come on," for example, can be a sarcastic quip, playful plea, or sexy appeal. Is the phrase whined or whinnied?Words are, of course, writers' favorite playthings. But novelist Scott Dominic Carpenter is better at playing them than most. As a result, reading a Theory of Remainders is akin to solving a linguistic puzzle in which every utterance by Carpenter's antagonist may have a hidden definition, particularly when the word has meaning in multiple languages. I enjoyed the game. However, the word play is only one reason to read Theory of Remainders. The protagonist of the story, a divorced father and psychiatrist still suffering from the murder of his teenage daughter and the unknown location of her remains, is a beautifully drawn character: sympathetic yet frustrating at times, angry but caring, selfish and also capable of great selfless. He is a true human and a great companion for an emotionally compelling psychological thriller.The setting is another reason to become engrossed in the novel. The story takes place in the Normandy region of France, a place of contradictions. Outsiders are unwelcome, yet tourism is the primary economic driver. The beaucolic landscape is still pockmarked with buried artillery shells from World War II. The omnipresent graves are a source of both national pride and sorrow. By the end of the novel, I had an affinity for the place--even if its inhabitants would have wanted to kick me out.
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  • Jon
    January 1, 1970
    This was written by a friend of a friend--the author is a professor of French and critical theory at Carleton College, near Minneapolis, where I live. As far as I can tell it's his first novel. It seemed to me to begin fairly creakily, with the machinery of exposition needing some oil in the first couple of chapters. I almost quit. But that would have been a mistake. When the protagonist goes to France the whole book opens up. The author clearly loves small-town Normandy, with all its beauties a This was written by a friend of a friend--the author is a professor of French and critical theory at Carleton College, near Minneapolis, where I live. As far as I can tell it's his first novel. It seemed to me to begin fairly creakily, with the machinery of exposition needing some oil in the first couple of chapters. I almost quit. But that would have been a mistake. When the protagonist goes to France the whole book opens up. The author clearly loves small-town Normandy, with all its beauties and warts, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Solving the mystery at the heart of the story involved psychoanalysis of the confessed murderer, along with linguistic interpretation of his elaborate word-play in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. I picked up most of the clues, but I was unable to solve the (as it turned out) quite ingenious puzzle. The book sagged a bit in the middle, since there was really not much suspense and nothing much at stake: there was hardly any threat to the protagonist, there was little sense of urgency (stop him before he kills again!), and if the mystery hadn't been solved no-one would have been much the worse for it. But nevertheless a fascinating psycho-drama, and some good characters managing to resolve their long-standing conflicts.
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  • Kathryn
    January 1, 1970
    Besides being a well-written and engaging read with intriguing word play, this novel speaks to universal themes of love and loss, the pull of family relationships, the power of language and memory, and the healing that can be found in community. The world of Phillip Adler became my world and his search for truth and meaning were mine. There was no disappointment, just amazing unexpected twists and surprises. I loved this book and I recommend it highly! It draws you in like a good detective story Besides being a well-written and engaging read with intriguing word play, this novel speaks to universal themes of love and loss, the pull of family relationships, the power of language and memory, and the healing that can be found in community. The world of Phillip Adler became my world and his search for truth and meaning were mine. There was no disappointment, just amazing unexpected twists and surprises. I loved this book and I recommend it highly! It draws you in like a good detective story but entertains you far beyond this simple pleasure. I loved the complex characters, clever linguistic puzzles, and most of all the rich portrait of the small town of Yvetot that appears as yet another protagonist of this multi-layered story.
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  • Hemmie Martin
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully written novel following the emotional journey of a divorced psychiatrist, as he returns to France to attend a family funeral. Whilst there, his already deep wounds about the murder of his daughter 15 years ago, are re-opened as he dearly wants to know where here body is buried, and the person guilty of her murder is the only person who can answer that. But he’s in a psychiatric hospital. We follow their cat and mouse journey with baited breath.The author’s use of language i This is a beautifully written novel following the emotional journey of a divorced psychiatrist, as he returns to France to attend a family funeral. Whilst there, his already deep wounds about the murder of his daughter 15 years ago, are re-opened as he dearly wants to know where here body is buried, and the person guilty of her murder is the only person who can answer that. But he’s in a psychiatric hospital. We follow their cat and mouse journey with baited breath.The author’s use of language is stunning, and the visual imagery had me standing side-by-side with the characters. The characters are well-rounded, and their emotions cut into me as I read the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I was touched by tears occasionally. I can see myself reading this book again.
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  • Lauren Pinzka
    January 1, 1970
    I could not put this book down. A riveting plot and a priceless, affectionate and comical evocation of Normandy. Despite the pitch perfect pathos of the narrator's quest, the author skillfully avoids the predictable ending but satisfies on all accounts nonetheless. Carpenter uses all of his tools as a literary critic to create a mystery story that is unravelled by means of careful textual decoding. Worthy of Agatha Christie indeed! His intimate knowledge of France and the French language will pl I could not put this book down. A riveting plot and a priceless, affectionate and comical evocation of Normandy. Despite the pitch perfect pathos of the narrator's quest, the author skillfully avoids the predictable ending but satisfies on all accounts nonetheless. Carpenter uses all of his tools as a literary critic to create a mystery story that is unravelled by means of careful textual decoding. Worthy of Agatha Christie indeed! His intimate knowledge of France and the French language will please francophiles everywhere. This book will most please a lover of things French and psychological. A must read!
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  • Margaret1358 Joyce
    January 1, 1970
    This thriller could be called 'Applied Psychiatry 101', as it traces the steps taken by the traumatized protagonist, Philip, a psychiatrist, to climb out of the emotional hell brought on by loss of his adolescent daughter.Fifteen years before we take up the tale, the daughter was murdered by a madman. The latter is now committed for life to a psychiatric hospital. Philip needs to know where the body is. With brilliant plotting, taut pacing, absorbing historical detail and wit, the author engage This thriller could be called 'Applied Psychiatry 101', as it traces the steps taken by the traumatized protagonist, Philip, a psychiatrist, to climb out of the emotional hell brought on by loss of his adolescent daughter.Fifteen years before we take up the tale, the daughter was murdered by a madman. The latter is now committed for life to a psychiatric hospital. Philip needs to know where the body is. With brilliant plotting, taut pacing, absorbing historical detail and wit, the author engages us in Philip's quest. A fantastic read!
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  • Darcee Kraus
    January 1, 1970
    An emotional journey you cannot help but get involved in. I am most impressed with Carpenter's characters, who evoked more human compassion out of the depths of my soul than anyone has in years. I am quite satisfied with my emotional state after the read, to say the least.Darcee KrausMckinleyville, CAhttp://www.etsy.com/shop/BlassGlass
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  • Diana Gail
    January 1, 1970
    There is a lot I enjoyed about this book. I enjoy the build up of the characters, slow revelations made timely to the events of the story. The intrigue of madness and the haunting of that final missing piece. I laughed, I cried.
  • Diana Schie
    January 1, 1970
    This book was set in France in the Normandy area. Gave you a lot of information about people in small French town. The main character was looking for his daughter's body. She had been murdered 15 years before. He had not been able to put it in the past.
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  • Theresa
    January 1, 1970
    This author wrote about place very well. I felt transformed to Paris as the story unfolded. The ending took me by surprise. Overall, I thought the writer could have written in far fewer pages. A bit long and tedious but a fairly good mystery. I would give it a 6.5 out of 10.
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  • Tej
    January 1, 1970
    Very well written. Good use of language. It was mostly a story of relationships but toward the end turned into a bit of suspense/murder mystery. Surprisingly quite good. I hope he continues to write more novels.
  • Will
    January 1, 1970
    This unheralded novel has developed characters to go with its interesting plot and geographical setting in Normandy. Part history lesson, it plays well for those wishing to understand their past regardless of other's wishes.
  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    I liked the book, it was suspenseful and kept you guessing.
  • Richard Nau
    January 1, 1970
    Absorbing plot that wraps up neatly. Intriguing characters from family, to villagers, to suspects and patients. Language usage and descriptions of the countryside help to set the tone.
  • Leanne
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyed this book. Thought I knew where the author was headed a couple of times, but I was wrong1 Looking forward to our next book club meeting when we'll be joined by the author.
  • Stacy
    January 1, 1970
    A triomphe litteraire by this professor of French literature at Carleton College.
  • Martha
    January 1, 1970
    Theory of Remainders is a great suspense novel set in France. Philip Adler is a Psychiatrist divorced, alone & traumatized by his teenage daughters brutal death.
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This excellent debut novel felt like an insider's version of "Dateline" crossed with a murder/mystery movie. Highly recommended!
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