The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

At first, I was a little skeptical about this book. A story that has the word “equation” in the title reminds me of Mark Watney in The Martian and how much math I had to do. Happily, there isn’t much math in this book but a wonderful journey of a family coming to terms with their late father’s last wish.

Here’s more about the book

35297219Just days after mathematician and family patriarch Isaac Severy dies of an apparent suicide, his adopted granddaughter Hazel, owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore, receives a letter from him by mail. In it, Isaac alludes to a secretive organization that is after his final bombshell equation, and he charges Hazel with safely delivering it to a trusted colleague. But first, she must find where the equation is hidden.

While in Los Angeles for Isaac’s funeral, Hazel realizes she’s not the only one searching for his life’s work, and that the equation’s implications have potentially disastrous consequences for the extended Severy family, a group of dysfunctional geniuses unmoored by the sudden death of their patriarch.

As agents of an enigmatic company shadow Isaac’s favorite son—a theoretical physicist—and a long-lost cousin mysteriously reappears in Los Angeles, the equation slips further from Hazel’s grasp. She must unravel a series of maddening clues hidden by Isaac inside one of her favorite novels, drawing her ever closer to his mathematical treasure. But when her efforts fall short, she is forced to enlist the help of those with questionable motives.


I really loved this story as a great alternative to all the heavy and scary thrillers coming out. If you’re a mystery fan and want to feel a little bit like Nancy Drew, then you might love this book.

It’s the story about a young woman named Hazel who was tasked to find and deliver her grandfather’s last mathematical equation. Hazel, a bookstore owner, doesn’t know much about math or science but she loved her grandfather so she decides to do it. While trying to unfold the mystery of her grandfather’s death and finally recover the equation, Hazel along with her other family members try to come to terms with the loss of their great patriarch.

I’m going to give you a little spoiler here. I don’t know if it’ll ruin the book for you or not, but I don’t think I can go on with my review of the book without mentioning it. I’ll share the spoiler after the jump.

In the book, Isaac Severy’s last equation is one that can predict the place and time a death will occur. These deaths are mostly accidental where you can figure out if someone died because they were killed or if they just accidentally did the wrong thing and paid for it with their life.

You can imagine that an equation with this kind of caliber of prediction could be incredible to predict other future events, but also you can see how it can be used for bad stuff. So while Hazel is on the quest for this final equation, she’s also met with others trying to get their hands on it too. For example, the government wanting to use it for their nefarious plans.

Although I’m not completely convinced that life and death can be determined with math, I thought that the book definitely entertained the idea. There was a lot of conversation about how you can figure out all the secrets of the universe if you believed there are secrets to the universe that can be found. For Isaac, it was the ability to predict accidental deaths.

Nova Jacobs expertly approaches this topic by providing the reader with Hazel. Because she’s not a mathematician or a physicist, you’re able to put yourself in her shoes and follow along with her. I was able to predict the location of the equation the moment that Hazel did because of this. It made it less frustrating to read and also way more fun to be in the shoes of someone who knows as much math as you do.

I will admit that I was worried there would be too much math. Like I  mentioned before, The Martian was chocked full with math and trying to read the book was like sitting in a college-level physics class. Even though Hazel’s whole family works at CalTech and all studied either math or science, the different formulas named and famous physicists wasn’t too difficult to deduce. Luckily I took some Python classes a while back so some of the formulas are recognizable, but I can imagine you falling down a spiral of science trying to look up the different names dropped throughout the story.

However, one thing I truly loved is the fact that while you may not be a great mathematician or even capable of figuring out how much tip to leave on your food bill (I suck at that), you don’t get lost. In fact, you’ll end up feeling smarter at the end of this book because one of the great areas of study is logic. If you can deduce things with the clues given to you, then you might have the brain for logic which is another study of math. Maybe that’s what Nova Jacobs wants you to come away feeling from this book; that you’re as smart as the smart guys here.

I think the one thing I wasn’t a fan of in this story was Phillip Severy. He’s Isaac’s eldest son and pretty much followed in his father’s footsteps. His story is interesting and definitely important for the rest of the novel, but it seemed to drag a little bit too much. I was so disappointed whenever Hazel’s story switched over to Phillip’s because Phillip’s just seemed kind of dragging.

Also, I wish there was some more clues and action. While the story is great, I thought this was going to be like National Treasure except instead of stealing the Declaration of Independence, they were trying to find math equations.

But overall, I think this story is not just a book about finding some math. I think this is also the story about a family grieving the loss of their patriarch. I deeply connected with this because I also lost our family’s patriarch a few years ago and that pain still hasn’t left me. You do what you can to remember him and you try not to think about all the mistakes you’ve made while he was alive. It’s a time to remember and a time to forget. I think that Nova Jacobs does a great job with subtly throwing that piece into the plot.


I received a copy of this book from Touchstone for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

4 thoughts on “The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

  1. Great review! I’m definitely going to give this book a try. Hopefully I won’t have to look up too many scientists, because that sounds like it could get a little tiring … but I love physics, so this seems right up my alley. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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