Saturday, October 9, 2021

Book Review: "Bewilderment" by Richard Powers

The newest book by Richard Powers, Bewilderment is a gorgeous and poignant meditation on the world around us and the relationship between father and son.

Theo is an astrobiologist. But of all the mysteries of the world he has studied, there’s no greater mystery than his nine-year-old, neurodiverse son, Robin. Robin is fiercely passionate and intelligent, he craves the knowledge his father gives him. But sometimes he cannot handle the jumble of emotions he feels at once, so that is manifested in outbursts, tantrums, even violence.

When Robin hits his classmate in the face, the school gives Theo an ultimatum: medicate him or they’ll intervene.

“My boy was a pocket universe I could never hope to fathom. Every one of us is an experiment, and we don’t even know what the experiment is testing.”

With no real choice, Theo enrolls Robin in an experimental neurofeedback treatment to help his emotional controls. It actually involves training Robin on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain, who died when he was younger. Is this the right course of treatment? What are the risks?

This is such a beautiful, emotional, evocative book. It’s a little science-heavy at times but skimming over those passages didn’t dampen the book’s strength. It’s at once a book about the fragility of our world and the fragility of our hearts, about the fierce love of a father for his son.

Richard Powers is one of those prolific, well-respected authors I’d never read before except short stories. Bewilderment really blew me away.

No comments:

Post a Comment