Differential Equations
by Julian Iragorri and Lou Aronica

ISBN: 978-1-936558-46-9 * eISBN: 978-1-936558-47-6 * Paperback $14.95 * E-book $6.99

Publication: April 24, 2012 * Lou Aronica’s bio

Differential Equations is an evocative, moving, and gorgeously detailed novel about Alex Soberano, a contemporary man in crisis. A tremendously successful New York businessman, Alex finds it difficult to embrace joy and accept love.

Alex swung his eyes around the room, landing on the sideboard. He’d never had a place for personal objects in his office until he got married. Before then, the seal presented to him by the city of Anhelo in South America for building a hospital in his mother’s name and five “tombstones” from blockbuster transactions he’d made during his years as a mergers-and-acquisitions banker in London were the only items from home he felt he needed. The sideboard was Opal’s idea, somewhere to put pictures of her, trinkets from their vacations, some of the Indian artifacts she loved to collect, and other endearments they’d gathered in their time together. There was little on the sideboard now. The pictures of Opal had disappeared instantly when they split, as did the artifacts (except for the statue of Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu deity known for removing obstacles); Alex gave away most of the trinkets methodically to those he thought might enjoy them.

Alex felt himself sink into his chair, as though he were becoming physically heavier while he sat there. So many long hours lately; even more than usual. He was convinced that the company would make their goal this year, though it would be tougher than ever before. Some might have said he was foolish for being so aggressive in a still recuperating economy, but he felt the need to push. It was only September; they might be able to close one of the other acquisitions before then, and it was still possible for an opportunity to materialize that he could leap on. Maybe he could finalize his divorce agreement by the end of the year as well. If that were the case, he’d sing “Auld Lang Syne” until the middle of the next week.

When Alex’s life threatens to boil over, he escapes for a brief respite on the West Coast. What waits for him there is something he never could have imagined. Intertwined with Alex’s story are the stories of three people from different times and places whose lives affect him in surprising ways.

One is a woman from the fictional South American city of Anhelo in 1928 that everyone knows as "Vidente." For decades, Vidente, has been one of Anhelo's most celebrated citizens because she has the ability to read colors that speak of a person's fate. However, during one such reading, she sees her own future:

Just on the edges of her hearing, Vidente found the sound of moaning. These were not moans of pleasure. Nor were they moans of pain or suffering. The moans held a sense of sadness and loss, but not the dissonance of true grief. As she extended herself to try to make more of this sound, Vidente felt a moist softness on her forehead followed by a silken brush across her face and then warm pressure. Moments passed and she felt the same series of sensations again. More moments passed and the experience repeated itself. Each iteration felt slightly different but materially the same.

As this happened for the fifth time, Vidente caught the scent of perfume. A floral and consciously unrefined smell, one that announced itself as its bearer entered a room and lingered for many minutes after the visit was over. It was unmistakably Ana’s latest perfume. No one else in Anhelo wore it. But the scent was not coming from the Ana who sat across the table from Vidente. It came instead from the scene Vidente sensed in her temporary blackness and it grew stronger as Vidente again felt the pressure on her body. Vidente heard a sob and then the pressure lessened. Soon the smell of Ana’s perfume diminished. It was then that Vidente realized that Ana was a part of this scene, but she was not the focus of it.

Vidente was.

Kisses on the forehead. Unreturned embraces. Repeated multiple times.

Vidente’s eyes opened involuntarily, causing the colors in the room to close on her vertiginously.

“Vidente, your expression; it frightens me.”

Vidente tried to stop the swirling of colors, tried to fix her eyes on Ana without scaring her further. “You have no reason to be frightened,” she said.

As her vision corrected, Vidente saw Ana’s hand go to the cross at her neck. “How can I believe that when you go into your trance for a long time and then come back looking like the devil was chasing you?”

Vidente took Ana’s free hand and clasped it with both of hers. “Believe me when I say that I didn’t see anything that should cause you fear. I just couldn’t get a clear image for you and this frustrated me.” Vidente stood abruptly, holding the side of the table to guarantee that she wouldn’t stumble. “I am sorry, Ana, that I could not do better. Maybe next month.”

Ana rose slowly, thanked Vidente, and left, her eyes more clouded and confused than when she entered. As soon as the woman was gone, Vidente sat down again, feeling the need to close her own eyes once more, but worried about what she would experience if she did so. If what she’d already felt was true – and it was important for her to remember that only the colors were always true – she would soon take a journey that would send her to a place of crisp, oaken air.

And then, before Ana changed her perfume again, Vidente would die.

Another is a man named Khaled who left his home in Bethlehem in 1920 to seek fortune in the South American town of Joya de la Costa. He has barely begun to gain a foothold when he learns that the wife and three children he left behind have been murdered. When a magical woman enters his life, he believes that destiny has smiled on him. However, destiny has only just begun to deal with Khaled:

He hadn’t wanted to get out of bed this morning. This was unusual because he’d always been ready for the workday. But when he awoke and turned toward Lina, her naked belly bulging between them, he felt the deepest urge to wrap her in his arms and stay with her until the sun was high in the sky.

“You’re lingering today,” Lina said, half-asleep.

He pulled her closer. “I like holding you.”

She sighed dreamily. “And I like when you hold me.” She kissed his neck. “This is the best place for me to be.”

“Then I’ll keep you here forever.”

She laughed. “I would love that. But you need to get started on the day. Babies are expensive.”

Khaled held her as close as he could and then kissed her tenderly. Then, before getting out of bed, he rested his head against the baby’s head – so big now that he could feel it straight through Lina’s skin.

As he did, Lina reached for him and pulled him back toward her. “Maybe a few more minutes,” she said, and Khaled was happy to comply. When he moved to rise again, she took much longer to release him than she normally did.

Khaled touched his hand to her face. “Is everything all right, my love?”

She kissed his knuckle. “We are perfect. I always want you to know that I feel that way.”

“As do I,” he said, kissing her deeply one more time.

The third is a nineteen-year-old student named Dro who flies from the South American country of Legado to Boston in 1985 and immediately walks onto the campus of MIT expecting instant admission. Dro's skills at mastering complex, ever-changing differential equations intrigues the associate admissions director. However, the person he intrigues the most is the celebrated US ambassador from his country, and his relationship with her will define his life:

Then the conversation shifted toward the personal, with Viviana (somewhere during this time, she’d asked him to call her by her first name) asking Dro about his decision to come to America for college and about his course of study.

“So your intention is to become a professor?” she asked, putting her snifter down and then tucking one beautifully curved leg under the other.

Dro took another sip of his drink. “I don’t think so. I had my sights on something…bigger. When I am older, though, I do think I would like to teach, perhaps even at MIT.”

“But what does one do with a Ph.D. in Economics other than teach?”

Dro found it difficult to believe that this worldly woman didn’t know the answer to that question. “I think I would like to be involved in public policy. I also think I would like to do research and bring something new to the world.”

Viviana gestured softly with her right hand. “Dro, do you really believe that your greatest contributions will come through academic pursuits?”

The question caught him up short. He didn’t answer.

“I spent many years in academia,” she continued. “I have my Ph.D. in Political Science. Do you know how much that helped me to get where I am now?”

“I would think it would have helped quite a bit.”

Viviana closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. “If anything, I would say it was a detriment. I learned a great deal in college. But I didn’t really understand how to do something real with my life until I got out into the world.”

She leaned forward suddenly, resting her hands on her legs. Dro could swear he felt a rush of wind from the move.

“Don’t get a Ph.D. now, Dro. The world already has too many Ph.D.s. If you think you won’t be able to go to God peacefully unless you have one, get it in your old age. Get your B.S. in Economics and then get yourself an MBA. If you really want to make an impact on the world, master Wall Street; become a financial leader.”

Dro considered the finery of the room. He had no taste for politics, but he was quickly beginning to realize how much he enjoyed the embrace of extravagance. “You might be right about that,” he said gently.

Viviana sat back again. “You will never regret this advice, Dro. I realize we’ve only been speaking for a short while, but I think I can see who you are – and I like what I see very much.” She paused and offered Dro a smile that set his nerves pulsing. “You’re someone who is going to accomplish huge things. The only way you will do less than that is if you set your sights too low.”

How the stories of these four people merge is the central mystery of this arresting work of imagination. Differential Equations is a story that will sweep you up in its magic, enrich you with its wisdom, and compel you with its deep humanity.

“Differential Equations is a fascinating character study that digs deep into individuals in different eras but tied together by the colors emulating from others.”

Genre Go Round Reviews

“Like eating a fresh lime sorbet with saltwater in your (sex-tousled) hair.”

Smallgood Hearth

“Reminds us how intricately we are all tethered together.”

Lazy Day Books

“One of those books where you can't stop reading. It was an amazing read and I think you should

give it a try.”

    – Ruby’s Books