Not a great deal is known about Mileva Mari''s scientific contributions, since her husband, Albert Einstein, was careful to relegate her to the shadows. At twenty, the Serbian-born Mileva (known to her family and close associates as Mitza), attended the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, where she excelled. She also befriended other young ladies who were determined to become professionals in their fields. Everything changed, however, when Mitza fell under the spell of her classmate, Albert Einstein.
"The Other Einstein" is Marie Benedict's fictional portrayal of the relationship between Mitza and Albert. At first, the two valued and admired one another; Mitza especially enjoyed the high-level intellectual discussions she had with Albert and his inner circle. Unfortunately, many obstacles kept the pair apart, including Albert's inability to find steady employment; parental disapproval; and Albert's self-centeredness and reluctance to make a commitment. The story is told from Mitza's perspective, and most readers will identify with the heroine's anguish at having been teased by classmates because of her pronounced limp; her desire to please her father, who pushed her to study for an advanced physics degree; and, when Albert ultimately convinced her to put him first, her frustration at sacrificing her own fulfillment to further her husband's ambitions.
Although Benedict bases this poignant novel on extensive research, she admits that her narrative is largely speculative; it is NOT history or biography. Still, the author effectively recreates the atmosphere in Switzerland, Serbia, and Germany during the late 1800s and early 1900s—a time of class-consciousness and snobbery; sexism; anti-Semitism; strict standards regarding proper behavior between courting couples; and exciting breakthroughs in various disciplines. Mitza's plight infuriates us, not just because she may have been denied credit for her ideas, but also because she tried, in vain, to be a proper wife to an egotistical and childlike husband. "The Other Einstein" is a heartrending account of a brilliant woman who wanted to do her duty, but instead sacrificed her soul.