Bewilderment – Richard Powers


An astrobiologist helps his neuro-divergent son understand our beautiful, imperilled planet

⫸ “Theo Byrne is an astrobiologist looking for life in space while also caring for his behaviourally challenged son, Robin. Theo’s wife, an environmental activist, has died in a car crash and as means to connect, Robin is intensely focused on the deterioration of the natural world.

“He is prone to violent rages when frustrated or challenged, and authorities from his school are concerned about Theo’s parenting abilities. Until Robin is accepted into an experimental programme focused on enhancing his emotional control as well as re-connecting him with his dead mother.

“The book provides commentary on the political, scientific, environmental and social state of the world within the private universe of a close father-son bond.”

Get out, my son said. You’re making that up. And we were, we Earthlings. Making it up as we were went along, then proving it for all the universe to see.

⫸ “Powers has a common theme of environmental and political care in his novels, and I appreciate that he never makes his points preachy or suffocating. In this instance he has a focused narrative about Theo and his mentally troubled son Robin whom he is trying to raise alone. The boy’s obsession with the world and Theo’s obligation to be his teacher, provides an opportunity for Powers to educate us on his thoughts of what’s wrong with the society and how to fix it. Yet at the same time the relationship between the two protagonists is beautifully detailed keeping the reader hooked.

“I especially liked the science fiction/dystopian touch with the machine that can connect people’s thoughts with those already passed. A real mix of topics and styles both real and not brought together in an enlightening read.” – Rachel

⫸ “In hindsight, the conclusion of this book was entirely predictable, but at the time it hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don’t have the eloquence to convey even a sliver of the grace Richard Powers has as an author. His commentary on the degradation of the environment interwoven with the helplessness and terror felt by the character of Robin left me feeling depleted. There was no glimmer of hope or redemption, and nor should there be.” – Suzy


Published 2021
WW Norton Co
288 pages

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