Monday, 12 May 2008

My Thoughts: The Echo Maker - Richard Powers

In this novel a young man is involved in a car crash, this results in a form of brain damage which causes him to not be able to emotionally recognise his sister - he knows that the person in front of him looks, talks and acts like his sister but he can't believe it is really her. Then an over caring nurse gets involved and a neurosurgeon...

I had read about this book last year on different more American forums and blogspot and it seemed to get really good press. Maybe my expectations were to high, but I felt that it was just an average book. Far too long. It did have gorgeous descriptions of the migration of cranes and mythical stories but I felt the link to them was a bit weak. It seemed like something he wanted to write about and needed to find a book to wegde it in to.

If you have any comments or have reviewed this book yourself please feel free to add your review, comments or link.


raidergirl3 said...

I reviewed this last year: here

katrina said...

Raidergirl3's review:
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.

Joy said...

This sounds really interesting.
I will have to check it out at the library. You have a great blog here too.

Andi said...

Oops, guess I should've read further before I commented about The Echo Maker on the post above. Sorry to hear it didn't live up to the hype!

Sandra said...

I reviewed The Echo Maker at Fresh Ink Books here: