The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth

Cover of The Unknowns

The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth
Published by: Little, Brown & Company
Published on: July 2, 2013
Page Count: 213
Genre: Fiction
My Reading Format: Audiobook review copy provided by the publisher for consideration
Audiobook Published by: Hachette Audio
Narrator: Will Collyer
Audiobook Length: 8 hours 3 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher:

Eric Muller has been trying to hack the girlfriend problem for half his life. As a teenage geek, he discovered his gift for programming computers-but his attempts to understand women only confirm that he’s better at writing code than connecting with human beings. Brilliant, neurotic, and lonely, Eric spends high school in the solitary glow of a screen.
By his early twenties, Eric’s talent has made him a Silicon Valley millionaire. He can coax girls into bed with ironic remarks and carefully timed intimacies, but hiding behind wit and empathy gets lonely, and he fears that love will always be out of reach.

So when Eric falls for the beautiful, fiercely opinionated Maya Marcom, and she miraculously falls for him too, he’s in new territory. But the more he learns about his perfect girlfriend’s unresolved past, the further Eric’s obsessive mind spirals into confusion and doubt. Can he reconcile his need for order and logic with the mystery and chaos of love?

My Review

The Unknowns, which explores the love life of Eric Muller, a developer with a knack for user experience and design and who became quite wealthy after selling his company to a larger software house, felt comfortable for me right from the beginning. Eric is a socially awkward man for all of his talent. While he specializes in making the software experience seamless and intuitive for the end user – no small art – he has to work extremely hard to make a similar good first impression on other people. Eric has no difficulty whatsoever working with logic and logical processes. It the emotional component to any relationship that makes him struggle. No matter how hard he tries, Eric just doesn’t seem to understand that love and human relationships are not logical problems to be figured out. The unknown or unproven aspects of a lover’s life story or character do not necessarily need to be brought out into the light in order to truly love. His inability to grasp this is his undoing.

I have spent the better part of my career working with software developers. They are an interesting group of people, but only a few of them share Eric’s social awkwardness. What was brilliant about The Unknowns is that through telling Eric’s story, Gabriel Roth shed a great deal of light on just why some developers behave the way they do around others. Over the years I’ve become used to their quirks and have found ways to work around them as needed for my job. While reading this book I felt as though I completely understood what can set them apart for the first time. I am much more comfortable with people than I am with code. They would certainly find me just as off kilter at best if I were to attempt to approach every logical problem from an emotion place. If I did, there would be just as many, “Oh, Jennifer!” moments for anyone following my life as there were “Oh, Eric!” moments for me while I was reading the book. I felt as if I was getting a glimpse from the other side and I loved every moment of it.

The Unknowns first made its way onto my radar when Gabriel Roth took over Little, Brown’s Twitter feed, but it wasn’t until I saw that Will Collyer served as narrator that I was sold. Once again, Collyer made for an enhanced reading experience. Collyer certainly has a knack for getting under the skin of unconventional and emotionally troubled men. His tuned in and sympathetic performance allows characters to stand naked before readers in complete dignity despite their many and not always insignificant flaws. The Unknowns is a gem of an audiobook.

Learning to love and how to express love is some of the most important work of life. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Even when it does, it leaves scars because the human heart does not snap to the grid nor does it always respond within prescribed guidelines to logical commands. That Eric Muller continues to soldier on despite the lack of easy success he’s found in his career is uplifting. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish and it’s one of my favorite this year. I highly recommend this novel and eagerly anticipate whatever Gabriel Roth comes up with next.


  • At 2013.09.04 05:22, Sandy said:

    This sounds wonderful! And I like that it addresses an issue that many struggle with, not just the techies. It just helps if you are super smart and super rich!

    • At 2013.09.04 19:36, Jennifer said:

      A lot of people do suffer from this. Even if you’re not a computer nerd it relates. Eric found that being super smart and super rich weren’t quite enough. 🙂

    • At 2013.09.04 08:42, Ellison Weist said:

      Clearly you have insider information into my bookish mind: this is yet another book I’ve been going back and forth on. As usual, your review gave me just the push I needed. And, yes, Roth sounds like an author to watch.

      Read more from Ellison Weist

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      • At 2013.09.04 19:39, Jennifer said:

        I am hoping against hope that you love these books as much as I do. I feel like much is at stake. 🙂

      (Required, will not be published)

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