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Theory of Remainders

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  152 ratings  ·  35 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 286 pages
Published June 1st 2013 by Winter Goose Publishing (first published May 21st 2013)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Brian Melendez
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jeffrey Pfaller
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
Sheila Banning
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this book mostly because of the way language was used and the play on words. The author is pretty brilliant!
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
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?
Roger Brunyate
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: place-portraits

Books 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
Cate Holahan
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing

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
Sep 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Hemmie Martin
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Lauren Pinzka
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Margaret1358 Joyce
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Darcee Kraus
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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 Kraus
Mckinleyville, CA
Diana Schie
Apr 29, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Diana Gail
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 01, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I liked the book, it was suspenseful and kept you guessing.
Richard Nau
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-reads
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.
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A triomphe litteraire by this professor of French literature at Carleton College.
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: suspense
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.
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although it book it outside of my typical genres, I read it on the recommendation of a good friend. It was quite suspenseful and the language was beautifully crafted.
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I write fiction. I also teach it -- mostly at Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota.

On my way to academia I staggered through quite a number of bizarre jobs: house painting, uranium mining, factory work, slave labor in a French château, coastline preservation in Brittany, every imaginable aspect of the restaurant industry, small engine repair, small office work, translation, sales and