Bewilderment Richard Powers

‘Bewilderment’ by Richard Powers. Image via Twitter @HutchHeinemann.

Environmental ode meets sci-fi in Richard Powers’s ‘Bewilderment’

Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Powers’s ‘Bewilderment’ tells the tale of a planet in peril as seen and experienced by one remarkable boy and his father.

Bewilderment Richard Powers

‘Bewilderment’ by Richard Powers. Image via Twitter @HutchHeinemann.

From the mind of the No 1 New York Times best-selling author and winner of several literary prizes, comes the new heart-rending novel Bewilderment which serves as a follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Overstory.

In Bewilderment, Richard Powers — whose novels have also been shortlisted for the Booker Prize — explores personal loss and the rawness of grief, as well as the decline of our planet and its potential impact on the future of today’s children.

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‘Bewilderment’: Richard Powers delves into human existence on a dying planet

This is not an easy book to read. It is not even a very relaxing book to pick up at the end of a long day. It is, however, an important book that everyone should read at some point in their life because of how it delves into the experience of human existence on a dying planet.

Bewilderment reads like a modern classic, with beautiful and poetic writing and strong undercurrents of important themes. The author explores the nuances of parenthood and personal responsibility.

How much should we tell children about the state of the Earth and their potentially bleak future on a planet that is stretched to its limits?

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The characters in Bewilderment are well crafted and raw portraits of words which make the reader feel connected to the people in the pages. The best part of this book is the character of Robin, a nine-year-old boy who feels deeply for nature and animals… And remarkably reconnects with dead mother through high tech.

His emotions feel so real that the reader cannot help but cry and laugh with him…he is indeed a triumph of characterisation.

‘Bewilderment’: Synopsis

Astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old son, Robin, following the death of his wife in a car crash.

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 punching his friend in the face.

As his son grows more troubled and is classified as being “on the spectrum”, 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?

Memorable quotes: ‘Bewilderment’

I didn’t know how to be a parent. Most of what I did, I remembered from what [my wife] used to do. I make enough mistakes on any one day to scar him for life. My only hope was that all the errors somehow canceled each other out.

Watching medicine fail my child, I developed a crackpot theory: Life is something we need to stop correcting. 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 that experiment is testing. My wife would have known how to talk to the doctors. “Nobody’s perfect”, she liked to say. “But, man, we all fall short so beautifully”.

They share a lot, astronomy and childhood. Both are voyages across huge distances. Both search for facts beyond their grasp. Both theorize wildly and lets 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.

More about the author

Richard Powers with his book ‘Bewilderment’. Image via Twitter @Mediapart.

Richard Powers is an American novelist whose novels often focus on the effects of modern science and technology. Powers was born in Illinois in 1957, but has spent much of his life in numerous countries around the world, such as Thailand and The Netherlands.

He began his formal studies at the University of Illinois where he was torn between the arts and science. In his books, Powers explores both, proving his mastery of the uniting of these often alienated fields.

His novel The Echo Maker won the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction. He has also won many other awards over the course of his career, including a MacArthur Fellowship.

As of 2021, Powers has published 13 novels and has taught at the University of Illinois and Stanford University. He won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Overstory.

Bewilderment is published by Hutchinson Heinemann and is available at Exclusive Books for R328.

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