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Bewilderment

by Richard Powers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9204219,426 (3.93)1 / 105
"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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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Richard Powers always has interesting ideas and always writes well. Admittedly the idea in this case isn't wholly original; if you have read Flowers for Algernon you have a very good idea of what is going to happen here. Theo Byrne is an astrophysicist in an America a few years from today that is increasingly anti-science, is suffering from climate disaster and generally breaking down. His son Robyn is sensitive, particularly to the suffering of animals, but clearly also has a range of behavioural difficulties. His mother, Aly, an animal rights activist, is recently deceased in an auto accident.

Theo is unwillng to put a 9 year old boy on psychotropic drugs, instead he enrols him in an expirimental neurofeedback program. Robyn starts to improve and gradually gains not just better empathy and self -control but also wisdom beyond his years and adopts characteristics of his mother

This is an engossing book with much that feels true; the bonding of father and son, the despoiling of the earth, the fate of science, the etermal mystery of whether there is life on other planets (we'd better hope so, the author implies) and of course the problems of raising a precocious child. More than anything, it asks why, when we as a species can see what destruction we are causing, we so determinedly refuse to do anything about it? Sometimes it takes the simple clarity of vision of a child to bring this home.

So this is highly recommended, but I can't give it 5 stars. For one thing, the denouement happens too quickly. For another, wholly admirable though his devotion to his son is, Theo seems too much the perfect dad. Does he really never need adult companionship? Or sex? But these are small quibbles about a very interesting piece of work ( )
  Opinionated | Sep 7, 2022 |
This ought to have interested, but I found it an increasing chore to read. I found none of the characters the least bit convincing. Humourless. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Aug 6, 2022 |
I didn't actually read that much of this. I loved the Overstory, but this one I couldn't get past the father's reluctance to acknowledge his son's autism spectrum disorder. Apparently he has the son undergo some type of neurofeedback treatment. As a parent of an adult child on the spectrum, I couldn't read his description of the son't habits and behaviors without labeling them for what they were. I don't know if Powers has known any parents with children on the spectrum, since he doesn't have any children of his own, but I just couldn't continue this. Maybe I'm missing a great story, but there are just too many books in the sea... ( )
  fromthecomfychair | Jul 6, 2022 |
This is the 3rd book that I read by Powers. Because he uses Science in his novels, he can lose me sometimes in the details of the science he is using. This book starts out that way and I had a hard time getting into it. Theo Byrne is a 45 year old astrobiologist whose wife died 2 years ago in a car accident and he is raising his 9 year old son Robin. Robin is a smart kid but one who is troubled and prone to fits of rage that is causing problems as school. Theo does not want his son on drugs so he involved him in an experimental study of neurofeedback that may help him gain empathy in order to control his rage. There are lot of side stories going on and Powers paints a very creative world for the relationship between father and son. However, the description of his dead wife and the actions of the 9 years old came across a little too much for me. She was a lawyer for animal rights and this "perfect" person in every ways and Robin is way too smart for a 9 year old. We see this type of child over and over in movies and novels. Powers does hit us with a full blown picture of a world in rapid decline due to climate change and a government led by a Trump like leader that denies it all. The book was very creative. At 280 pages it is a good introduction to an author who is passionate about our need to seriously address climate change. ( )
  nivramkoorb | Jun 7, 2022 |
This story was absolutely brilliant but utterly depressing. The writing was beautiful, but the story was the perfect storm of things going wrong. Quite a few themes were interwoven in layers beneath the main story which brought everything to life.

This is the story of astrobiologist Theo Byrne and his emotionally disturbed son Robin. After the untimely death of his wife Aly, Theo takes Robin to a fellow scientist who tries a new neural feedback technique on Robin which seems to be promising. Due to a mistake in judgment by Theo, he belatedly realized how his life with his son might be changing.

This story was written as a conflict between the extremes of religion and science, as well as the need to care for planet earth, but it was especially hard to read because of its political undertones. I found the story frighteningly realistic.

My heart bled for both Theo and Robin as their relationship was so dependent on one another after the death of Aly. I wanted to do everything I could to protect both of them. I couldn’t because this was only a story. It was dreadfully anxiety-provoking and disturbing, though.

I definitely have to read more work by this author. His personal ideas are so well expressed through his story-telling. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Jun 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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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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