Richard Powers

Fiction 2021 | 278 pages


I am shocked to discover that there exist people who did not like this book! I think it is nothing short of brilliant.  Theo Byrne is raising his neurodivergent, undiagnosed, nine-year-old son Robin, after his mother’s accidental death.  This, all alone, is the making of a challenging story.  But add to it, in true Powers’ sentiment, a dying planet, climate change, and species extinction, and you reach a deeper level of sorrow.

Theo is an Astrobiologist.  His work is searching for other planets, perhaps planets that sprout life. He tells Robin numerous bedtime stories about made-up planets, where something unique is occurring In the ecology or with the inhabitants.  These are great stories, fueled by a vivid imagination.

Meanwhile, Robbie becomes a patient in an experimental neurofeedback treatment program.  He learns to use his mind to move a dot on a page, and then he and the artificial intelligence (AI) take off from there. Eventually the researchers invite Robbie to witness a similar treatment, done a few years earlier, with his mother, and Robbie begins to experience his mother Aly more clearly his life, including her knowledge, her values, her sensibilities, and her love.  It is quite amazing what happens for him, and how he improves in managing his fear, anger, confusion, and neurodiverse behavior.

While the story line is intriguing and compelling, the real reason why I fell in love with this book is the writing.  It simply is beautiful writing.  Clear.  Dynamic. Sensual even.

Read this.  Do not hesitate to read it as soon as you can get your hands on a copy.

March 2022


2 responses on “Bewilderment

  1. mary+crawford

    Powers is the author of The Overstory. A challenging, fascinating read. This looks like another good one. Glad to see Dusty Shelves up and running again!