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Atmospheric Disturbances

3.13 of 5 stars 3.13  ·  rating details  ·  2,710 ratings  ·  609 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Salon.com Top Ten Book of the Year
A Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Best Book of the Year
A Slate Best Book of the Year


When Dr. Leo Liebenstein's wife disappears, she leaves behind a single confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her. A simulatcrum. But Leo is not fooled, and he knows better than to trust his
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 27th 2009 by Picador (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lynn
Aug 07, 2008 Lynn rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lynn by: New Yorker, New York Times
Shelves: read-in-2008
This book has been widely reviewed, and I understand why. It's basic premise is unique, and the writing is sometimes stunning. As a first novel, I'd say it's fairly accomplished. The problem is I didn't really like it. The whole book kept me at an arm's length, as if I were reading an extended logic problem. At time's the writing was interesting, but at other times it seemed way too aware of its own cleverness (One line that sticks in my mind is "she centimetered toward me" or something like tha ...more
oriana
Gosh, well wow. I liked this book quite a lot. It is certainly original and cool. Also a really great blend of beautiful language, surprising insight, wonderfully strange characters, and fascinating factualness. It reads very quickly, really propelling you forward, in a sort of frenzied rush to the point when all the secrets will be revealed. I found myself getting very nervous when I realized I only had thirty pages left... then twenty... then five... I knew there wasn't nearly enough wordspace ...more
Jamie
I was initially quite taken with this book. It is coolly intellectual, mysterious, unique, and filled with fun vocabulary words and complex sentence structure. Then about halfway through, I found myself getting bored. It was a little too esoteric and scientific, too detached, and headed absolutely nowhere. When I finished it, I realized it had succeeded in rousing no emotion in me whatsoever, and that made me think about it in a completely different way. Perhaps this was the point of it (one of ...more
M. Hornbuckle
This is Rivka Galchen's first novel, and it's the most impressive first novel I've read in I don't know how long. In a way, it's a novel about weather, but really it's about perceptions of reality. She's exploring some of the same themes that I'm currently writing about and doing it so well, it makes me question my own work, but it also reinforces the idea that these themes are floating around in the zeitgeist, and perhaps they are even important.

Anyway, this is a great fucking book, and Rivka G
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Jimmy
[On the dopper effect...] Being aware of this distortion of perception allows scientists to take advantage of the distortion itself in order to gather accurate data about the actual, and not just the perceived, world. ... these distortions [when] properly understood enable a more accurate understanding of the real world. p 45
Obviously Galchen is not only referring to the doppler effect here, but also to other types of distorting effects. Like the one she is using--the unreliable narrator.

The pro
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Drew
I'd had this sitting on my shelf for a good six months before finally deciding to read it. And...what a disappointment it was. Leo Liebenstein believes his beloved wife has been replaced by a "simulacrum": an interesting concept, though nearly identical to that of The Echo Maker. The difference is that the narrator of The Echo Maker is a firm subscriber to a "consensus view of reality," while Galchen's narrator is Leo himself, making it somewhat uncertain whether his delusions are precisely that ...more
Anna Savage
It took me nearly a year to finish this book, which I should have been able to read in two hours. I could not emotionally connect to anyone or anything in it for a single second, so I'd repeatedly pick it up, read two pages, and set it back down, never having engaged. Everything about this book, from the misuse of scientific catchphrases for quirk to the untrustworthy narrator to the smug, look-how-creative-I-am tone each sentence was soaked in, made me want nothing to do with it or anything els ...more
RandomAnthony
You know sometimes you encounter a book, movie, etc. and you can't tell if the artifact was self-consciously arty or if you just weren't attentive enough to "get" the artifact? Well, this evening I finished Atmospheric Disturbances. I thought the novel was strong but perhaps too obtuse to enjoy. Galchen's short, clipped sentences were kind of cool. The Borges and Murakami influences were obvious, not in a bad way, but I felt like I was working too hard as the reader to piece together the literar ...more
Alexandra
I'm giving in to the temptation to share thoughts about a book before I've finished it, which I sometimes regret because what if it starts out strong and intriguing, but then turns out badly, like _Jurassic Park?_ I am going to take that risk with this book, to which I wish I could give 10 stars.

I mostly want to respond to some pans of this book- comments like "She's no Pynchon" and accusations of flat and unlikeable characters and a meandering plot. No, Galchen is not Pynchon and that is a wond
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Yulia
Rivka Galchen knows how to well and she writes well. I'll start with that. Be positive! I'd even agree with the flap copy by an unpaid editorial assistant that this book has many moments that are moving, sophisticated, an compassionate. No small accomplishment.

The problem is, do we really need another book about an extremely rare form of brain damage? Are you sure? In this case, the form of agnosia is Capgras, in which you recognize the people you know, but believe they've been replaced by impo
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James Murphy
I didn't care for it. There's not much story. That fact is acceptable in itself. We read many things in which there's little narrative direction. Lacking much story is alright if a novel or memoir or nonfiction chronicle is written in an energetic, absorbing style in which the primary interest is the language or the stylistic elements themselves. That's not true of Atmospheric Disturbances, so it's less interesting than it should be, or at least as I'd expected and think it could be. Most of the ...more
Cayr
This is a very strange book.

Some reviewers have likened Galchen to Murakami, but although both writers paint surreal landscapes with words, Murakami's landscapes are masterpieces along the lines of Salvadore Dali, Galchen is more like Gregoire Michonze.

Galchen's main character is a psychiatrist who one day looks at his wife and convinces himself that she is an imposter. Her "disappearance" inexplicably coincides with the disappearance of one of his patients. While "searching" for his "real wife
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Michael
Atmospheric Disturbances is the story of Leo, a psychiatrist who comes home one day to find that the woman in his home--though she looks almost exactly like his wife--is not in fact his wife. This sets him off on a search for his real wife that takes him to Buenos Aires (her birthplace) and then down to Patagonia. Along the way, he is influenced by a metereologist, Tzvi Gal-Chen (who, odd though it may be, I can only assume to be the author's father, given various things revealed during the book ...more
Katie
I really admire this book.

I interpreted it as the telling of what happens when somebody you love changes. The narrator, rather than acknowledging that his wife had simply changed as a person, becomes convinced that she is NOT his wife. He runs away to Argentina, her country of origin, to find out the truth about her.

It's a heart-breaking story, really. Some of us (ahem) have a hard time adjusting when others change, and it can honestly drive you to the brink of insanity.

On some levels I think th
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Elevate Difference
In some cases, you may be midway through a story, novel, or film before realizing you’re dealing with an unreliable narrator. He or she is biased, withholding information, or mentally unstable. (Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s disturbing story “The Yellow Wallpaper” springs to mind as just one example.) In Atmospheric Disturbances, the debut novel by Rivka Galchen, it is apparent early on that the main character, psychiatrist Dr. Leo Liebenstein, is off his rocker. Perhaps that’s putting it too stron ...more
Maria João Fernandes
"Não podemos prever o tempo que fará amanhã correctamente se tivermos noções erradas sobre o tempo que faz neste instante." É com base nesta afirmação que Leo justifica o inexplicável e incompreensível desaparecimento da sua mulher.

Tudo começou num mês de Dezembro, quando uma mulher rigorosamente igual à esposa, entrou no apartamento de Leo. Era tudo igual mas ela não era Rema.
Normalmente, quando uma pessoa de quem gostamos desaparece, dirigir-mo-nos à policia. Mas Leo Liebenstein não tem um pro
...more
Dina Roberts
I thought this book was very well-written and clever.

I think maybe I would have liked it more if it had been shorter. Recently I read a short story I wished to be a novel. This is a novel that I wish was a short story...or a novella.

The book is narrated by a psychiatrist who begins to have his own experience with mental illness. He becomes delusional...maybe schizophrenic? He believes his wife has been replaced by an impostor, and he believes they're all involves with some type of weather thing.
...more
Hannah  Messler
Dear Rivka Galchen,
I won't pretend that the pony of my heart was not distracted from your book by the suicide of David Foster Wallace. Or that I haven't, just like I'm guessing 700 million people right now, picked up Infinite Jest again.

Nonetheless, Rivka, I am sorry to say that in the end you seemed to me more similar to Marisha Pessl than it would be seemly to say.

Enh.
Réza
Místy matoucí, ale velice zábavná kniha o identitě, psychózách, pravdě a meteorologii. (Nespolehlivý)vypravěč je psychiatr, který se jednoho dne rozhodne, že mu někdo vyměnil manželku a odpověď hledá se svým pacientem a se slavným meteorologem Tzvi Gal-Chenem, který je ovšem skoro deset let po smrti. Autorka je psychiatrička, jejíž otec je meteorolog Tzvi Gal-Chen.
Oliver Ho
I wanted to like this novel, and maybe if I were to read it another time I would respond to it. But, holy smokes, this didn't work for me at all. I had wanted it to be like Oliver Sacks meets Paul Auster and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", and there were several moments where I could see it going in that direction, or approximating that mood/tone/vibe. Unfortunately, I simply couldn't connect with this book. The writing felt far too cold and artificial, the emotions didn't r ...more
Drucifer
Uh, could've been worse I guess. The thing that bothers me about unreliable narrators is the way writers sometimes use them as cop-outs. Like, take Leo, for example. Yes, he's nuts, that's great. I love nuts people. The only problem is his narrative suffers from the same kind of (ILL)logic. The conclusions he comes to end up driving the narrative, but none of those conclusions make sense, which means we end up following Leo without really knowing why, except that in his brain everything makes se ...more
Tomiko
The first sentence of this novel is awesome: "Last December, a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife." The rest of the story deals with this predicament; the clearly delusional protagonist spends the entire novel (which, in my opinion, is about 75 pages too long) rationalizing and deliberating. The main character, Leo, is a psychiatrist who is constantly analyzing others, and he frequently dismisses these analyses when they apply to him.

This, in a way, is the author’s craft
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selena
I began reading Atmospheric Disturbances on a whim. It was one of the books featured at my library, vetted for by a librarian. Her book stood out to me because of her psychiatric background and the various awards this debut novel had received or been nominated for.

As a reader, it was clear that Rivka Galchen is an incredibly intelligent woman. Her novel is ambitious, tying together meteorology, mathematics, psychology and love. For Rivka, this novel was also a foray into family history; one of t
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Lisa
I liked this quite a bit. I'm usually not all that hot for experimental or postmodern fiction, and I'm not even sure if this falls into either of those categories -- for all its conceptual noodling, the book was still a pretty straight-ahead narrative. Not the most warm fuzzy story I've ever read, but really kind of sympathetic in spite of itself. All the eclectic erudite stuff I found fun, and there was definitely some thoughtful stuff about the nature of reality, identity, coincidence, etc. to ...more
Tyler Taylor
I posted this on a blog in 2008. It's pretty wordy.

“Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife.”

So begins the short-story-seamstress Rivka Galchen’s debut novel. “Atmospheric Disturbances” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) tells the story of Dr. Leo Liebenstein, a New York psychiatrist whose wife has disappeared and been replaced by a double, sending him on a quest to find her and a missing patient, Harvey, who believes himself to be a secret agent working for th
...more
Charity (CJ)
This book reminds me of my experience watching the David Lynch movie Mulholland Dr.. While there were parts of this book I enjoyed, I really didn't understand it. After I watched Mulholland Dr. I was absolutely irate that it made so little sense. I searched all of the sources I could until I found a thread of meaning, and then I watched the movie again with that secret decoder ring, and it made sense and I loved it. Except that I'm not really angry at Atmospheric Disturbances, and I'm not actual ...more
Srinivas
Did I read this book? Did someone else read it for me? Did I feel like I was reading this book but someone else was reading it for me? Did someone else read the book and I felt like I was reading it? WTF! What is up with this book?!! There was a certain charm and novelty to the original conceit of this book which, I suppose the author put together from her Psychiatry rotation and listening to her meteorologist father talking shop. However, all the good things about that idea disappear at about p ...more
Rebecca
I'm nearly done, but I have to say that if this book weren't getting such rave reviews I probably would have given up by now. :( More when I've finished.


Ok, I finished it, but the fact that it's taken me over a week to get around to reviewing it says something about the lackluster impression it made on me. I admit, I was intrigued by the suggestion in the NYT review (I think it was this one) that this novel was a rare example of a metaphysical/intellectual novel-of-ideas by a woman, and since th
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Laura Rittenhouse
I wanted to give this book a 3.5 but gave Rivka the extra half point because she wrote a rather complex story and I'm sure that wasn't easy. The book is told in the first person by Leo, a psychologist. His world shifts dramatically (in his mind anyway) when his wife, who is at best apathetic towards dogs, comes home with a puppy. He is immediately convinced that this imposter is the double of his wife and finds reinforcing evidence in things like lines on her face proving that the doppleganger i ...more
Stacia
This was a random selection from the library shelves & I hit a winner. The cool, clinical tone was perfect for the story of mental derailment from reality. The story brought up some provoking thoughts about reality (what it is vs. what we perceive), how we rationalize things, how we engage or detach from the world around us, how we cope. I'd recommend it to some, but I realize it is not a book that will appeal to others.
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Did you think it was open-ended? 1 6 Jun 05, 2014 02:27PM  
20 Under 40: Rivka Galchen 1 8 Aug 08, 2011 08:28PM  
Interview with Rivka Galchen, Author of Atmospheric Disturbances 1 68 Dec 31, 2008 07:06PM  
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  • Fanon
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Rivka Galchen (born 1976) is a Canadian-American writer and physician. Her first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances, was published in 2008. She currently is an adjunct professor in the writing division of Columbia University's School of Art. In 2010, she was chosen as one of the 20 best writers under 40 by The New Yorker.
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“We need to develop a better descriptive vocabulary for lying, a taxonomy, a way to distinguish intentional lies from unintentional ones, and a way to distinguish the lies that the liar himself believes in – a way to signal those lies that could be more accurately described as dreams. Lies – they make for a tidy little psychological Doppler effect, tell us more about a liar than an undistorted self-report ever could.” 9 likes
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