Sunday, July 1, 2007

BOOK: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

I'm somewhat conflicted about reviewing this book, because I know it is an award winner (National Book Award, 2006) and it was recommended by 3M for the Something About Me Challenge. And I can see why it was an award winner, but I think I read it at the wrong time of the year, when my brain has essentially ceased functioning at the end of June. There were some big ideas in this novel - who are we? how is memory of a person compare with their reality? the trust we have in the people around us? And these big ideas would take a lot more thought than I was prepared to give them.

Mark has been in a car accident and when he awakes from his coma, he believes his sister has been replaced, an imposter. This is called Capgras syndrome and Dr Weber, a reknown cognitive neurologist, comes to investigate.

There were several levels to this novel: the cranes which return to Kearney, Nebraska each year; Mark's recovery and dealings with his sister and their past life; the mystery of what happened to Mark on the night of the accident; Dr Weber's tentative hold on reality in his own life; the different syndromes associated with brain injuries; and the existential questions of self and memory. I mostly enjoyed the mystery of the accident and the note that was left for Mark in the hospital. I found my mind wandering during sections about the cranes and about Dr Weber and his problems. It could have been shorter and I wouldn't have missed much of the filler. Mostly, I didn't connect with the characters and found their actions difficult to understand, especially Mark's sister.

I also enjoyed the setting of Nebraska and feel the author did a great job of describing the feel and mood of the location. The science background describing the different symdromes was also very interesting, as was the mystery of the accident and the Capgras syndrome. I wanted to finish the book and never contemplated not finishing, but it was a little long, and I read three other books after I started this one because I couldn't read this very fast. The pages really dragged in parts and I had to concentrate to get through the novel. I blame much of this on me and my tired head this month.

This was a NYT Notable Book of 2006, and while I enjoyed much of the story I don't think I'll be looking for another of Powers' books for quite a while.


  1. I agree. The novel had so much going for it, but it could have been tighter, you know? Good observations.

  2. I agree it could have been so much better. I was very into it though, because of my own experiences with Capgras and Cotard's Syndromes.

    I really like your reviews!

  3. I really, really did not like this book. I probably would have quit reading it if I wasn't on vacation with it as my sole reading entertainment. Several people commented on my review to say they didn't like it either....

  4. Glad to see I wasn't alone I thought I was missing out on something!


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