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The Echo Maker: A Novel by Richard Powers

The Echo Maker: A Novel (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Richard Powers

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2,160954,522 (3.57)99
Title:The Echo Maker: A Novel
Authors:Richard Powers
Info:Picador (2007), Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 21st c., literature

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The Echo Maker: A Novel by Richard Powers (2006)

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English (88)  Dutch (3)  Italian (2)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
This is a novel that takes it self so seriously that it's hard to enjoy. The writing is very good even while none of the characters are particularly likable. The main issue that I struggled with while reading this book was that it didn't seem to be building into anything in particular. As I came to the end I was a bit like "Oh. Okay. Really? Wait, what? Alright." ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
I find the task of reviewing Richard Powers daunting and humbling. This is my third one, after Orfeo and The Time of Our Singing, and they are all brilliant in subtly different ways. One obvious difference is that there is much less music in this one, but there is a wealth of ideas - on the brain, on nature and evolution, on the nature of American society after 9/11, and on the nature of love and what it really means to know another person. Then there is the setting, the Platte river in South Nebraska, a spectacular staging post on the migration path of sandhill cranes.

The story starts with Mark, a young man in left in a coma after a car accident that almost killed him. His sister and only remaining relative Karin comes back to her hometown to care for him. This is just the start of a complex web in which nothing and nobody is quite what it or they seem to be. When Mark recovers consciousness, he is unable to accept that Karin is his sister, obsessing on minor differences between what he sees and what he remembers, illustrating what is known as Capgras syndrome. The case is brought to the attention of Gerald Weber, a writer about psychological disorders (who must be at least partially modelled on Oliver Sacks). Gerald becomes involved against his better judgment and the case causes him a crisis of confidence that leads him to question his professional integrity.

Interspersed with the story of Mark's disease, there are two other major strands to the story. Firstly Mark becomes obsessed with a mysterious note left at his bedside on the day of the accident, and needs to find out who wrote it, what they know, and how his friends were involved. Secondly Karin becomes involved with Mark's estranged childhood friend Daniel, who works on an environmental project protecting the cranes' habitat and fighting a development project that threatens it.

The material on the brain, how brain science evolves and what is known and not known about various brain disorders is fascinating, but perhaps overlong and a little too detailed for all but the keenest readers. The personal story is gripping, and some of the turns it takes are genuinely surprising.

I am still just scratching the surface of what could be said about this book, all I can really do is recommend it. Perhaps not quite as extraordinary as The Time of Our Singing, but it seems invidious to compare such different books, and my respect for Powers as a writer has only increased. ( )
1 vote bodachliath | Sep 14, 2018 |
I read this because a former professor of mine--a brilliant man--recommended the author in passing. The first hundred pages or so were interesting and set in motion a terrific idea for a novel. However, the book soon became unwieldy and horribly overwritten. Powers couldn't leave well enough alone. The dialogue between Weber and his wife is terrible--who talks like this?--and many of the characters speak in cute ironic phrases. At one point, a woman tells Weber in a bar, "Basta. Enough flagellation. Let's dance." Enough flagellation? At another point, one of the protagonist's friends-- a loser--quotes Hamlet. (And not "To be or not to be," but something more obscure.) There are hundreds of such examples in the book-and the longer it goes, the more the characters all seem to sound like each other and the more difficult it became to turn the pages.

Powers is too smart for his own good, or at least the good of the reader. He attempts to dramatize how the brain creates the illusion that we are whole when our selves are really fragments. But the amount of neuroscientific jargon that is found on so many pages becomes maddening. When a man kisses a woman and we read, "He slips down into limbic back alleys, corners that survived when the massive neocortex came through like a superhighway," we realize that when you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Perhaps Powers writes about cranes better than people.

As for the great mystery that propels the book, the payoff is completely underwhelming. Avoid.
( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
Like many of Powers' other novels, The Echo Maker fuses pop science and sharp characterizations to bring us (uncomfortably?) close to characters suffering from crises of identity and post-(modern? industrial? capitalist?) loss.

It's notable (and I assume intentional) that of the three main characters, the two ostensibly healthy people suffer more acutely than the accident victim. Powers' style is sharp and compelling, and often departs in quite brilliant lyrical passages that I found amazing. I imagine I will be haunted for years by images from the book, the way I also am by moments from Galatea 2.2 and Plowing of the Dark. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
Interesting novel about a young man who suffered from Capgras Syndrome after suffering some brain damage in an automobile accident. This syndrome is the belief that some people and things around you are imposters. (Sort of like The Truman Show, only the person is aware of it) He calls his sister “Karin Two,” and his dog “Blacky Two,” because he firmly believes they are fakes who are amazingly similar to the real thing. The novel is a combination of a mystery, a psychological treatise on Capgras Syndrome, a nature story about migratory birds, a commentary on evolution and our relationship to other species, and dire warnings about the environmental dangers of over-development. In other words – way too many subplots for my liking. I assigned three stars because I learned a lot about a very rare and fascinating brain disorder. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Powers does a beautiful job with these characters, as we see each of them navigate through their self-preoccupations, their histories (shared and not) and where their own needs intersect with others.
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To find the soul it is necessary to lose it.
- A. R. Luria
Part One:

We are all potential fossils still carrying within our bodies the crudities of former existences, the marks of a world in which living creatures flow with little more consistency than clouds from age to age.
- Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey, "The Slit"
Part Two:

I know a painting so evanescent that it is seldom viewed at all.
- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Part Three:

I once saw, on a flowerpot in my own living room, the efforts of a field mouse to build a remembered field. I have lived to see this episode repeated in a thousand guises, and since I have spent a large portion of my life in the shade of a non-existent tree, i think I am entitled to speak for the field mouse.
- Loren Eiseley, The Night Country, "The Brown Wasps"
Part Four:

What was full was not my creel, but my memory. Like the white-throats, I had forgotten it would ever again be aught but morning on the Fork.
- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
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Cranes keep landing as night falls.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Richard Powers (Evanston,Illinois, 1957) a scritto anche (pubblicati in Italia): "Tre contadini che vanno a ballare"; "Il dilemma del prigioniero"; "Galatea 2.2"; "Il tempo di una canzone".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312426437, Paperback)

Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction
The Echo Maker is "a remarkable novel, from one of our greatest novelists, and a book that will change all who read it" (Booklist, starred review).
On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His older sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman--who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister--is really an imposter. When Karin contacts the famous cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help, he diagnoses Mark as having Capgras syndrome. The mysterious nature of the disease, combined with the strange circumstances surrounding Mark's accident, threatens to change all of their lives beyond recognition. In The Echo Maker, Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our boldest and most entertaining novelists.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:53 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter, suffering from a rare brain disorder that causes him to believe his sister to be an impostor, endeavors to discover the cause of the motor vehicle accident that resulted in his head injury.

(summary from another edition)

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