emi Bevacqua's Reviews > The Echo Maker

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
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's review
May 08, 12

bookshelves: family-dysfunction, fiction, haunting, mystery
Recommended to emi by: Julie Huffman
Read from May 03 to 08, 2012 — I own a copy

I've always loved reading neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks's case studies, and this book read kind of like a twisted tribute to him, in that one of the main characters (Dr. Gerald Weber) is also a writer of similar case studies but is suffering an existential mid-life crisis over the authenticity or value of his life's work. Also there is Mark in Nebraska, whose car rolls over and wrecks on a remote stretch of road in the dead of night; when he awakens he no longer recognizes those he loves best (sister, dog, double-wide).

Dr. Weber travels out to diagnose Mark's Capgras syndrome, meets a nursing assistant (Barbara Gillespie) who isn't who she seems to anybody, and then there are these endangered giant red-headed cranes that gather in this town every year (that practically every culture throughout history seems to claim we humans are related to), there's a mysterious note left on Mark's bedside table at the hospital, and parallels are drawn between two nascent wars: the US and the Middle East post-9/11 and another local one between Developers and Environmentalists - and incredibly Mark's unrecognized sister Karin is intimately involved with the leaders of both those movements! And yet all of it flows and works together and resolves, incredibly. Wow, what a smart book.

It was draining to follow, and there were a couple spots where I did get lost. Like this line on pg 318, "Barbara's face, that open oval, still regarded him, the simplest interrogation. His insides, airborne, answered for him." I thought that meant he threw up. But it was never addressed further. Huh. And there were some foreshadowing things that I never figured out too, where Unrecognized Sister Karin recognized something of herself in Dr. Weber, and he in turn recognized something of himself in Barbara Gillespie, but oh well, I still really enjoyed this book anyways. Wonder what Dr. Sacks would make of it.

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