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3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  775 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Gain tells two parallel stories: one, of Laura Bodey, divorced mother of two and successful real-estate agent in the small town of Lacewood, Illinois, who one day discovers that she has ovarian cancer; and two, of Clare Soap & Chemical, the company begun by three merchant brothers in 19th-century Boston, which by the turn of the
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 26th 1999 by Picador (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30)
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In this novel, painfully and tentatively, two worlds entwine: the idiosyncratic fabric of an individual’s life and the managed, efficiency-driven footprint of a global company. But the entanglement is more than a mere conflict between powerless consumers and machiavellian corporations.

Because, ultimately, we live in a world that is populated by fallible humans. Also globe-spanning businesses emerge from the entrepreneurial impulse of an individual, or a small group of individuals, with a partic
Apr 02, 2013 Ryandake rated it really liked it
Powers' novels are never about one thing--as a reader you have to take the two or three narratives and twine them together to see the shape he has constructed. in this novel, we watch a corporation grow and a woman wither in twinned narrative.

Clare Soap starts out in 1802 with the first Clare arriving on the US' eastern shore. Laura starts out in May of an unspecified but 1980s-ish year, planting her spring garden. Clare is about to begin a business which will lead his sons to start Clare Soap.
Aaron Arnold
I have a complicated relationship with contemporary American fiction. Actually, I flat-out despise most of it. Give me a period novel about Edwardian English gentlemen, Second Empire French coalminers, post-Petrine Russian nobles, or even Depression-era California fruit pickers, and I will be happy, but it seems like I loathe anything set in the modern United States. Why does the life of a person in the recent past seem so full compared to the bland epigones who populate our shelves? Such small ...more
Krok Zero
Oct 26, 2010 Krok Zero rated it it was ok
Shelves: winter-10-to-11
Massively disappointing. I assumed I would dig this, because a) I liked/loved the other two Richard Powers books I read (coincidentally both also starting with G), b) Mike Reynolds raves about this one and c) the opening grafs are gorgeous as hell. But the chapters about the corporation read like a fucking textbook, and the ones about the sick woman are mainly just boilerplate coping-with-cancer drama. I respect the ambition of commingling the epic history with the close-up human story, but this ...more
May 07, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a dense read, mixing the fictional story of a woman with cancer and a history lesson in the Industrial Revolution in America. It's depressing and scary and insanely thought-provoking. That being said, I'm glad that I read it, but would have a hard time recommending it, unless to someone who was already interested in the topic. Primarily reads like non-fiction.
Jul 30, 2008 jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With the critical acclaim piling onto his most recent novel, "The Echo Maker," one can only hope that Richard Power's other superb works will cease to languish undeservedly in the ranking of sales. One of the finest American novelists currently working, Mr. Power's work stands out for the author's deft prose, careful plotting and complex approach to issues of modern identity, science, and the self. Those put off by the sheer size of Powers' novels (the breath taking "Time of Our Singing" comes i ...more
Mar 01, 2016 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
"Better living through chemistry". This is a book of two strands. In one we watch a company grow from meagre beginnings manufacturing a few bars of soap (selling the first ones at a loss) through to being a huge corporation with multiple product lines most of which are based on the wonders of chemistry as it advances through the decades (we travel from the early 1800s through to somewhere around the 1980s).

In the second, a woman battles with a disease that is destroying her life.

In lesser hands
Jun 21, 2008 Jeanne rated it liked it
Recommended to Jeanne by: Chicago Public Library
One more book for our summer reading program, Read Green, Live Green!

Let me begin by stating that a novel by Richard Powers is not a beach read. That having been said, it probably should not be recommended for a summer reading program. This is a dense and slow novel, and it is not for amateurs!

In Gain, Powers tells two stories: the story of the Clare family and their soap business and the story of Laura Bodey, a woman who has just found out that she has ovarian cancer.

As the stories move along
Nov 13, 2009 Howard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most engaging novels I've read in years. It works on more than one level by combining the story of a divorced woman raising two children who gets ovarian cancer with the history of the multi-national consumer products conglomerate that has a plant in her Illinois town. Powers is always interested in how science relates to culture, and in this case the science is chemistry, but for me the strongest part of the book was the history of the company. Starting with the British immigrant to ...more
Mar 26, 2008 Lynn rated it liked it
This book put me in a really really really bad mood.
Mar 29, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a tale told from both ends. somewhere in the middle we see how innocuous steps up can result in the creation of monstrosities, and how the machine will devour us all if we are not careful.
Umberto Rossi
Jan 18, 2013 Umberto Rossi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Togliamoci subito di torno l’unico difetto di questo romanzo: il titolo. Ma non quello vero, che Richard Powers gli ha attribuito nel 1998, ovverosia Gain (guadagno, profitto). Mi riferisco al titolo di questa prima edizione italiana, ben tradotta da Luca Briasco (che di Powers aveva già tradotto Galatea 2.2, sempre per Fanucci). Forse alla casa editrice di via delle Fornaci volevano ironizzare sul fatto che, tra le altre cose, questo romanzo narra la storia di una multinazionale statunitense ch ...more
Jan 09, 2008 Evan rated it really liked it
This was the second book that I have read by Richard Powers, but I didn't realize it until after I had finished. I read The Gold Bug Variations back in college, and remember enjoying it back then -- I can see where Powers' double-strand style flows from one book to the next. Based on this one, though, I'm probably going to go back and re-read Gold Bug.

Talking to other people, this book was not a big hit with most, but I enjoyed it -- I thought Powers did a nice job balancing two very different s
Jan 06, 2009 Troy rated it liked it
I love Richard Powers and this is only book I've read that takes a corporation as a protagonist. It's a great idea, since the corporation acts like an incredibly virulent and active family, spanning locations, individuals, actions, laws, countries, products, etc. The story of the corporation is incredibly dynamic and new. In Gain the corporation is named Claire and is obviously modeled on Johnson & Johnson. The Claire family comes to the U.S. during the birth of the country and quickly takes ...more
Your Excellency
Apr 04, 2013 Your Excellency rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
Richard Powers' Gain exemplifies the kind of book I love to read - a beautifully written narrative combined with a compelling story - in this case two disparate stories that are headed for each other.

Gain provides an in-depth, fascinating history of the development of a soap company, from humble 18th-century beginnings to a modern conglomerate. His craft is so good that he makes this story, and those who populate it, compelling, interesting, and worthy of the reader's care. At the same time, Pow
Michael Kerr
Jan 11, 2008 Michael Kerr rated it liked it
Gain tells parallel stories: one about the history of a manufacturing corporation, the other about a woman discovering she has cancer. Shockingly (sarcasm) the two stories merge. Unfortunately, the merger of the two stories was incredibly predictable.

Between the two stories, I found the history of the corporation to be more interesting and entertaining. Powers describes the evolution of the corporation and its employees marvelously, blending the fictional history of the company with world/U.S.
Sep 26, 2007 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For whatever reason, this for me was the least memorable of Richard Powers' novels. It's about corporate greed, and cancer, and of course it's beautifully written and wildly intelligent. But I couldn't give it the full five stars that I gave all of his other novels ... it just didn't grab me like his others did.

However, a not-great Powers novel is still better than 90 percent of all the other stuff out there, so I gave it four stars.
Mar 08, 2013 Ivy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powers' favored device of alternating two story lines in every other chapter works wonderfully in this novel. The historical rise of the proctor and gamble-like soap company juxtaposed with the contemporary woman struggling with cancer and her familial and social connections in the same city today-ish plays scope against intimacy. It is familiar and surprising, engaging and heart rending. It is my second favorite Richard Powers novel after The Echo Maker.
Mar 03, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this several years ago and ran across it again. I remember that it was a moving story. One part of the story follows a woman battling cancer. The other part of the story follows three brothers who started a Clare Soap & Chemical and its progress into a multiconglomerate. The intersection of the stories are the factories that are in the woman's hometown.
Jan 24, 2008 Puddinheadjoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
awesome book. two stories are told--one of a soap company that grows from nothing to a billion dollar conglomerate, the other of a woman who lives in a town where the soap factory's pollution has caused her to develop cancer--two stories of growth gone wild. dense and beautiful.
Jan 20, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite Richard Powers book. The historical story of the rise of a consumer product company (very similar to P&G) with the impact to the environment that can happen was very well done. Powers' best characters to date
Aug 15, 2007 Marisela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I remember crying at the end of this novel. Yes, that's right, I cried.

I enjoyed the paralleled stories: a woman whose cancer is directly related to a chemical factory and the story of the factory's roots as it became a corporation.

Sep 26, 2007 Kit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: archive
split rating - 5 stars for the story of the evolution of a chemical corp over the years from its humble beginnings as a chandler's shop; 2 stars for the other, which i thought felt forced and overdetermined.
Feb 24, 2008 Evan rated it really liked it
Beautifully constructed novel that may not capture everyone's attention, but kept me plowing head first. It's been a while since I read this and someone ran off with my copy, but it's certainly something I'd replace in order to read again.
Gain was a pretty good, pretty quick read about the evils of capitalism and the ironic toxicity of soap.
karolyn steffens
Apr 13, 2007 karolyn steffens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
another cancer narrative... very interesting parallel between capitalism/corporate america and the virus/disease. so many metaphors, so little time!
Mar 11, 2008 Hope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For book club...
Oct 30, 2007 sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book by Richard Powers I read, and the only one I have liked so far.
Lenny Wick
May 16, 2014 Lenny Wick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As good as a four star rating can be. Just an amazing piece of work. That is flawed. That doesn't quite come together - or does, if barely.

There's really nothing like this book, that I know of. Not one that has the balls to pick up a multinational corporation and try to trace its development from birth to ever-increasing, sprawling vastness. Literature so rarely bothers with the world of business: they are different worlds, and business is not often exciting to read about. But it is of and in ou
Maggie Bryan
Jan 20, 2012 Maggie Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A challenging but very rewarding read. There are two stories in this book, one belonging to Laura (who is dying from ovarian cancer) and The Clare Corporation (which develops a type of cancer of its own). The stories intertwine and make for an interesting juxtaposition of real person and 'corporate person'. I chose this book originally because I wanted to understand more about the development of corporations. I have a background in American history but had never been exposed to something that d ...more
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Richard Powers is the author of eleven novels. He has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the Lannan Literary Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the National Book Award.

Librarian note: There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.
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