Embarrassed. By Richard Powers. WW Norton & Company; 288 pages; $ 27.95. William Heinemann; £ 18.99
NSN Ecological Epic Regarding deforestation, Richard Powers expanded its readership when The Overstory won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. His new novel, won this year’s Booker Prize, has the potential to further increase his profile. It’s a shorter, more intimate story that still addresses his characteristic scientific themes.
The story is set in Wisconsin and told by the widowed astrobiologist Theo. He resists the diagnosis of autism and struggles to raise his son Robin, whose novel lasts between the ages of eight and ten. Robin’s mother, Alyssa, recently died in a car accident. He is destructive at school. Suffering from global warming and the devastation of nature, he is comforted by playing games where he and his father imagine life on another planet.
As school troubles worsen, Robin may participate in pioneering neuroimaging therapies. It reduces stress levels by teaching the mother to mimic the former brain activity. Theo agrees to have Robin appear in the program’s promotional film, but the resulting attention goes out of control.
This scientifically-toned homeschooling drama is encouraged by an authoritarian president who locks up and disagrees with journalists against the backdrop of extreme weather, crop failures, and rampaging militia. Sabers rattle between America and China. Eventually, viral brain disease spread from cattle to humans. “Confused” is similar to the fictional cousin of the 2006 Cormac McCarthy novel The Road, in which a widowed father and son tell a story to each other during an apocalypse.
The disappointing past tense of Theo’s story of the event creates suspense, as well as the persistent question of why Robin’s dialogue (like Alyssa) is italicized and the rest in reverse commas. increase. Powers has succeeded in drawing both mind and mind by folding his vast theme into a blend of speculative fiction and domestic realism. And through its central bereavement story, this parenting and environmental novel becomes a multifaceted quest for mortality. ■■
This article was published in the printed book and arts section under the heading “Life, the Universe, and Everything.”
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