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Bewilderment : a novel by Richard Powers
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Bewilderment : a novel (original 2021; edition 2022)

by Richard Powers (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,5597811,780 (3.9)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)
Member:baughga
Title:Bewilderment : a novel
Authors:Richard Powers (Author)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2022), 304 pages
Collections:Your library, ebooks, Book Club, Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:science fiction, grief, climate change, environment, astrobiology, autism, fathers and sons, ebook, Amazon Marketplace, Book Club 2024, 2024

Work Information

Bewilderment by Richard Powers (2021)

  1. 00
    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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English (72)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
Theodore (Theo), an astrobiologist and university professor, and Robin Byrne are father and son. Robin's mother, Alyssa, an environmental lawyer, was killed in a car accident when she avoided hitting an opossum. Robin was 7 years old at the time and struggling with Asperger's, ADHD, and/or OCD. When he lost his mother, he became much worse. Theo, trying to have the best life for his son, refuses to medicate him due to his age. He has trouble in school and acts out at home. Theo tells him stories about possible life on other planets. Theo works at a university where there is a neurology researcher investigating decoded neurofeedback named Currier who had been a former lover of his wife. After a bad outburst, Theo arranges for Robin to be treated with DecNef. Theo begins homeschooling him and Robin thrives--so much so that he becomes famous for his championing of endangered animals and plants. However, the United States is in political distress with the president staying in office beyond his term and arrests of detractors. Congress is refusing to fund the search for extraterrestrial life and other research areas. I really did not like how this ended, nor did I appreciate all the supposedly technical information about astrobiology - don't know if it was made up or is really in that research area. ( )
  baughga | Jun 18, 2024 |
So, let me get this straight, dad of troubled child. You refuse to put your child on regulated medication because reasons, but you will allow a man who you are pretty sure has a grudge against you to experiment on him? Seriously, that's all you need to know about the book. Also, because I read this for a class, I have the audio and the print. Do not read the print. It gives spoilers from the first page which just serve to ruin the whole book. ( )
  IriDas | Jun 12, 2024 |
After completing the audiobook, I needed to let the story soak in before posting a rating. There are a lot of thoughtful positive and negative reviews on Goodreads, so I will keep my thoughts brief.

The story is told through the POV of an astrobiologist, raising a son who has some unspecified type of medical diagnosis, though it comes across as autism. The father who is a person of science, completely disregards any recommendations involving 'western medicine' for his son and eventually embraces a controversial, unproven type of treatment. The emotionally charged exchanges between father and son were amplified in the audio version, so after a while I found them draining.

The environmental related interests of the son, Robin, brought up some subjects that are very relevant to what is going on in the world today. Unfortunately the author really glosses over the complexities of those issues. Instead, the focus is often on bedtime stories related between father and son, going into detailed explanations and technical simulations about the universe. ​By the disturbing end of the book, I questioned many of the father's decisions, though I did have empathy for his situation.

Overall, I didn't really care for the near constant dialogue, which was used as the primary method of storytelling. I also wasn't entirely sure what the intent of the author was. Is this an environmental book, a statement about the medical community, a political book or primarily a story about a father trying to figure out the best way to raise his troubled son? Maybe it is all of those and the author's intent doesn't matter.


I did feel the narration by Edoardo Ballerini was well done. In many ways the audio improved upon the story but in other ways it highlighted some of the flaws in the writing. I was hoping the interest in and connection I felt with the characters during the initial chapters would last throughout the entire audiobook but unfortunately that didn't happen, for me anyway. For now, I am giving it four stars, although I did consider a lower rating.

Noting: The content of this review was slightly edited after the initial posting. I also decided to add spoiler tags, although there aren't any detailed spoilers in my review. ( )
  Ann_R | May 25, 2024 |
I read (listened to on a long car trip) The Overstory a few years ago and liked it but didn't love it. I think Bewilderment was suggested because I loved Cloud Cuckoo Land, but now I'm suspecting it was just because part of that book had an environmental theme. So far this book is just alternately sappy and preachy. Not going to finish this one. ( )
  RaynaPolsky | May 17, 2024 |
I had no idea that this book would take me through the emotional rollercoaster it did. It’s definitely the kind of book you read and question parenting in general. At least that’s what I did.

I felt for the dad. I felt for him and we were there with him while he was making decisions for his son. Every step of the way and ngl, I have a new found respect for parents. The fuck is parenting??? Heeh anyway!

Robin, sweet sweet Robin. He was so misunderstood. By by his father sometimes and his teachers and the students in his class and (if I can exaggerate a smidge), by the entire freaking world. I felt for him. I felt his anger and his loss, and all the other confusing emotions an autistic 7 year old (i think that was his age) body could hold!!

The ending! That was so sad! ( )
  Donnela | Apr 30, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Powersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Tiittula, AnteroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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
Dedication
First words
But we might never find them?
Quotations
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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