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Bewilderment (2021)

by Richard Powers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,5047612,048 (3.92)1 / 138
"A heartrending new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning and #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Overstory. "Richard Powers, whose novels combine the wonders of science with the marvels of art, astonishes us in different ways with each new book." -Heller McAlpin, NPR Books. The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. Robin is a warm, kind boy who spends hours painting elaborate pictures of endangered animals. He's also about to be expelled from third grade for smashing his friend in the face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo hopes to keep him off psychoactive drugs. He learns of an experimental neurofeedback treatment to bolster Robin's emotional control, one that involves training the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother's brain. . . . With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, its tantalizing vision of life beyond, and its account of a father and son's ferocious love, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers's most intimate and moving novel. At its heart lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?"--… (more)
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    Amphibian by Carla Gunn (LDVoorberg)
    LDVoorberg: Both about young boys on the spectrum who are troubled by species extinction and their attempts to save the animals.
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» See also 138 mentions

English (68)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  All languages (73)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Brilliant. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. ( )
  davidrgrigg | Mar 23, 2024 |
This was probably my favourite book of 2021. After my struggle with epic, but difficult and unpolished [b:The Overstory|40180098|The Overstory|Richard Powers|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1562786502l/40180098._SY75_.jpg|57662223], I'm so glad I gave Powers another chance.
The story follows an astrobiologist struggling to raise his son after the death of his wife. Giving away any more of the plot would take away from the joy of reading this, so I'll keep it there.

Powers is again on a mission here, dealing with his usual topics (environment, climate change), but unlike in The Overstory, he seems to be a lot less moralizing and is more compassionate and focused on human relationships. The message is loud and clear as ever. This is a book everyone should read.

Thoughts about "antiscience" in this novel:
Many reviewers call this book anti-science because Theo didn't want his son to take drugs to control his behaviour. While I get this is controversial, I believe in this book it just served to show how dysfunctional our society is and how just because someone is not neurotypical they shouldn't be medicated just to get numb and fit in. Robin would immediately get better surrounded by nature which was just another symptom of a sick society that lost touch with the environment.

It often seems to me that drugs are too often prescribed to people who would not need them if our society was more functional and everyone had the support they needed. This is definitely not the same kind of anti-science the anti-vaxers would support.
( )
  ZeljanaMaricFerli | Mar 4, 2024 |
Such a beautiful story, I wanted to spend time with the characters personally. Some moments are uplifting and others heartbreaking. This is a very difficult but productive read for those who have lost a close, immediate family member. ( )
  rosenmemily | Jan 7, 2024 |
The writing was so beautiful and poetic! I loved it, but I also enjoy reading poetry on its own. There were some things I didn't like about this book, but what I did like balanced that out. One of my favorite things was the way homeschooling was portrayed- finally, it's realistic (it may still be a form of stereotype, but it's much better than previous generalizations).

The audiobook was read very well. I enjoyed how the reader gave character to each person by the way their voice sounded, especially the way he read Robin. ( )
  Dances_with_Words | Jan 6, 2024 |
This is a profoundly depressing followup to "The Overstory", perhaps because in the interim, Powers has come to believe the earth is truly finished. He's probably not wrong. This time around he tells a focused, intimate story of widowed astrobiologist Theo Byrne and his young son, Robin. Neither of them is doing well in the wake of wife/mom Alyssa's death. The story is set a few years in the future where the United States has accelerated its slide into authoritarian government and the pace and destructiveness of environmental disasters has intensified. These things are mostly only mentioned in passing, however. Alyssa was a celebrated animal rights activist, whose passion was all-consuming. Intact, the little family may have been able to build a nurturing and happy world for Robin, who is enormously sensitive and has inherited Aly's passion for "all sentient beings". Without her, he is unable to deal with his grief and control his emotions, and for Theo, parenting Robin now requires almost all of his time and attention. He resists the school's attempts to medicate Robin and instead turns to family friend (who may or may not have had a romantic relationship with Aly) Martin Currier, a neuropsychologist who has developed a brain training technique based on emotional states. This plot development echoes the famous short story "Flowers for Algernon". As things play out, the book's message (at least to me) becomes more and more clear: the earth's collapse is looming and inevitable. Those who care intensely and passionately can't do anything to stop it; all attempts to fight back are pathetically inadequate and will be fiercely countered. Also, even if we aren't actually alone in the universe - we are alone in the universe. There are no saviors coming. I actually liked many of the ideas in this book, but was put off by the flights of fancy regarding imagined exoplanets and also by Robin's Buddha-like evolution, although I did find him a highly sympathetic and appealing character. Finally, a word on the title - Bewilderment. Why, oh why have we done this to ourselves? ( )
  Octavia78 | Jan 4, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
"Those who contemplate beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as it lasts." — Rachel Carson
"Therefore, for a similar reason, we must admit that the Earth, the sun, the moon, the ocean and all other things are not unique, but number in numbers beyond numbers." — Lucretius, De Rerum Natura
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But we might never find them?
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I wanted to tell the man that everyone alive on this fluke little planet was on the spectrum. That’s what a spectrum is. I wanted to tell the man that life itself is a spectrum disorder, where each of us vibrated at some unique frequency in the continuous rainbow.
They share a lot, Astronomy and childhood. Both are voyages across huge distances. Both search for facts beyond their grasp. Both theorize wildly and let possibilities multiply without limits. Both are humbled every few weeks. Both operate out of ignorance. Both are mystified by time. Both are forever starting out.
I felt us traveling on a small craft, piloting through the capital city of the reigning global superpower on the coast of the third largest continent of a smallish rocky world near the inner rim of the habitable zone of a G-type dwarf star that lay a quarter of the way out to the edge of a dense, large, barred, spiral Galaxy that drifted through a thinly spread local cluster in the dead center of the entire universe.
Let’s heal what we hurt.
May all beings be free from suffering.
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"A heartrending new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning and #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Overstory. "Richard Powers, whose novels combine the wonders of science with the marvels of art, astonishes us in different ways with each new book." -Heller McAlpin, NPR Books. The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. Robin is a warm, kind boy who spends hours painting elaborate pictures of endangered animals. He's also about to be expelled from third grade for smashing his friend in the face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo hopes to keep him off psychoactive drugs. He learns of an experimental neurofeedback treatment to bolster Robin's emotional control, one that involves training the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother's brain. . . . With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, its tantalizing vision of life beyond, and its account of a father and son's ferocious love, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers's most intimate and moving novel. At its heart lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?"--

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