Book Review: Strange Arithmetic by Kerrin Willis

About the Book:

Title: Strange Arithmetic

Author: Kerrin Willis

Page Length: 315

Publication Date: March 21, 2023

Synopsis: Massachusetts, 1944. When Maggie O’Callaghan takes a job at Camp Myles Standish, the last thing on her mind is falling in love. She’s there to help the war effort so that heroes like Charlie Morris, the young man her family wants her to marry, can be brought home to safety. But when Maggie meets Carporale Leo Castiglione, a chivalrous being held at the camp, she is soon swept away by the intensity of her feelings. Will her family ever accept her love for a man who was once an enemy, or will Maggie be forced to fight for everything she holds dear?

Massachusetts, 2015. Kindergarten teacher Niamh Reilly longs to start a family with her wife, Christine. Since the death of her mother, Niamh hasn’t known any blood relatives, and she yearns for a biological child of her own to help fill the void in her heart. But when Niamh’s struggles with fertility lead her to search for her biological family, will she be able to come to terms with her past in order to embrace her future?

Strange Arithmetic is a fast paced, gripping historical fiction novel, filled with love, loss, and learning hard lessons. Although Maggie and Niamh can’t always control their circumstances, only they can control how their stories end.

LINKS:   Goodreads   |    Amazon

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My Review:

Strange Arithmetic is an engrossing piece of historical fiction with richly developed characters, immersive dual timelines, and poignant messages. Like Willis’s first book, this story is set in Massachusetts, and much of the plot takes place less than an hour from my home. I always find historical fiction set in or near Rhode island so fascinating. It’s amazing to see how much our world, cities, and societies have changed and how they haven’t. The dual timelines highlight these very striking changes and similarities. I also didn’t know much about prisoners of war who were kept in New England, but I did know a bit about the Irish-Catholic and Italian-American cultures, and I thought both were realistically portrayed.

The first timeline takes place in 1944 with Maggie and Leo’s story and the second in 2015 with Niamh’s. These characters are layered and complex, each with interesting arcs and unique connections. Their stories are woven together seamlessly into a compelling and engrossing narrative. I quickly became invested in these stories as Maggie meets and falls in love with Leo, an Italian prisoner of war, and Niamh struggles with fertility and identity issues. Their lives are realistic, their relationships relatable, and their stories are both hopeful and heartbreaking.

Something I really like about the story is the universal themes. For example, a common thread in both of the author’s books focuses on seeing things from different points of view. Maggie reflects on Leo’s captivity and treatment and compares him to her brother, who is also a soldier in the war albeit on the opposing side. She sees how these men are more alike than they are different, and she questions why some people are treated differently than others. It’s a strong and thought-provoking message about humanity, equality, and empathy.

Both Niamh and Maggie’s stories address the inequities and struggles of womanhood, the need for autonomy, and the challenges people face regardless of the time period. And let me tell you, some parts of the story made my heart melt, and other parts made it break. It evokes all kinds of emotions, and as the pieces between the two stories slowly come together, I found myself hoping beyond hope that there would be a happy resolution for the characters I came to love.

A deeply moving story about love, loss, prejudice, and so much more, Strange Arithmetic is a brilliant read and one I highly recommend to fans of historical fiction and romance. Special thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.



Favorite Parts:

  • The love stories.
  • The dual timelines.
  • The powerful messages.

Favorite Lines:

“There is so much ugliness in the world… I think it is our duty to hold on to happiness wherever we can find it.”

Casablanca is a movie. This is real life. Rick was selfless; he let Ilsa go for the good of the world. I am a selfish man, Maggie. I wouldn’t let you go for anything.


The book does include topics including racism, forced adoption, pregnancy, and more that could be triggering for some readers. So, I would recommend checking out the content warnings before reading.

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