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The Echo Maker

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  7,978 ratings  ·  1,270 reviews
Following a near-fatal accident, Mark Schluter is nursed by his reluctant sister. But when he emerges from his coma, Mark believes that this woman – who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister – is really an identical impostor. As a famous neurologist investigates his condition, Mark tries to learn what really happened the night of his accident.

On a winter night on a
Hardcover, 451 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published January 1st 2006)
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Shena Vasko Because the writing SUCKS. This was one of the worst books I have ever read.

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3.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,978 ratings  ·  1,270 reviews

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Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My wife is such a sweetie. She saw that my job had me knee-deep in numbers and thought maybe I’d appreciate more words in my life for ballast. With that in mind, she arranged for me to take an online writing class. We just started Week 2 – Show, don’t tell. One of the discussion prompts was to cite examples of a writer who “shows” particularly well. Turns out, I have a ready supply of quotable passages from books I’ve been meaning (for too long) to review. The set I had for this one just about r ...more
I find the task of reviewing Richard Powers daunting and humbling. This is my third one, after Orfeo and The Time of Our Singing, and they are all brilliant in subtly different ways. One obvious difference is that there is much less music in this one, but there is a wealth of ideas - on the brain, on nature and evolution, on the nature of American society after 9/11, and on the nature of love and what it really means to know another person. Then there is the setting, the Platte river in South Ne ...more
Bill  Kerwin
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it

Karin returns to her small town in Nebraska to care for her brother Mark, almost killed in a mysterious highway accident. When Mark regains consciousness, he insists that Karin is not his real sister and treats her as an impostor. In an attempt to cure Mark of his delusion, Karin contacts Dr. Weber--a neurologist modeled on writer Oliver Sacks--and asks him to examine her brother.

This is a fine novel with considerable narrative drive and a not unsatisfying conclusion. Its deeply philosophical na
Will Byrnes
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Here we are again in the world of literature. Powers is a powerful writer. The length of the book (451 pps) does not really tell the length of this work. It is not a fast read. There is much content woven into the pages, a tapestry of imagery and meaning that enhances the action of the story.

Kearny, Nebraska is a way station on the central flyway, a place where thousands of cranes congregate every year on their way north and south, providing an industry for the town. The descriptions of the migr
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"The issue of subjectivity is a hotly debated topic in the fields of philosophy and the cognitive sciences. But is subjectivity necessary at all? Why is it not just enough to see and react, as a robot might do? What advantage is conferred on the organism by actually experiencing something over just doing it? It is important to consider that animals may not have subjectivity but only react as if they do. Some in this field point out that because we cannot determine that animals do have subjective ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one really
Mr. Powers, I have no doubt in your ability to write the sappiest story ever. Not only do you manage to force a sister-brother bond over whooping cranes and frost, you also manage to force a shameful-but-safe romance between said sister and said brother's successful counterpart. I hate you. Thanks to you I will never like a crane, I will never sympathize with head trauma victims, and I will never finish your dumb book. You may have fooled Oprah, but I've got your number!
Feb 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: gluttons for punishment
This book stunk so badly that I left it on the seat of the train as I was leaving.

A woman behind me said, "Excuse me, I think you left your book."

And I said, "Yeah, I kind of wanted to leave my book, in hopes that someone else would come along and not hate it as much as I did."

This book was long, boring, rambling and had one plot twist that was moderately interesting, but didn't show up until about page 400 (out of 450).

Skip it. Seriously. Spend time reading a neurobiology book, or a book abou
Oct 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: bird brains
Flowers for Algernon for the new millennium!!!!!

Okay, not really, no. Well, maybe a little...?

The best parts of this book were those written from the perspective of a character with severe traumatic brain injury. The rest of it was good too, but the characters were never quite convincing enough for me to suspend my disbelief and actually care what happened to them. Of course, I was helplessly distracted the entire time by the Man Behind the Curtain. Does Richard Powers do all his own research? W
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
I've always had mixed feelings about Richard Powers. On the one hand, he is at work creating a new kind of American literary voice -- one fluent in the vocabulary of technology that anyone with a computer and a gadget fetish begins to incorporate into his or her discourse. It's a burning, living, thoroughly modern idiom that most writers -- pale and sheltered one sees them -- have ignored, maybe even with some disdain. But on the other hand, Powers has always been a writer uncomfortable with emo ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is my fourth Richard Powers book in as many weeks. When the Austin paper reviewed The Echo Maker prior to its release, I was intrigued and drawn to this author with an immediate urgency to read him. First I read the beautiful and opera-like The Time of our Singing and followed with the tender Galatea 2.2, two very different stories that demonstrate Powers' narrative alacrity. (Now add to that The Gold Bug Variations, which I plan on reviewing as an equally powerful novel. )Then I read The E ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
I will look back on this and see it as a mistake. I should not pass judgment on a book that I haven't finished, and should keep quiet about my displeasure with a novel that seems to be universally loved. I know (because it always happens) that I will look back and realize how dumb I am.

Even so, I am fighting my way through Powers's writing. Is there anyone out there who feels the same? Is there no one who also feels that the writing comes off as amateurish and sentimental, and who is exhausted
Nov 16, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't finish this slow, overly descriptive, not-at-all intriguing, boring novel. It was a book-club pick and only two people finished it, one kicking and screaming.

The book is about a man in his mid-20s who's in a car accident and spends two weeks in a coma. When he wakes up and begins his recovery, he accuses his sister – the two have always been very close – of being an impostor. It's a disorder called Capgras syndrome, and it's very rare.

The neuroscience and psychology in the book are fa
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 2019, 5-stars
This was my second time through this book, this time as part of a “project” to re-read all of Powers’ books in publication order, one per month for a year. As this is book number 9, there is a good body of work behind this that I have now read at least twice, plus some foreknowledge of what Powers will write after this one (I have read Generosity once and both Orfeo and The Overstory twice).

I’m a bit conflicted after completing this re-read of The Echo Maker. Somehow, it was simultaneously bette
Aug 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, psychology
SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT: I'm not giving away the ending here, but the following does give away some of the plot developments.

This won the National Book Award last year, and is by an author who has received one of the MacArthur "genius awards." Did it deserve it?

In the end, I can't endorse the choice, even though there is much to commend in this book. The basic story: a Nebraska factory worker flips his truck on a cold winter night, and when he wakes up, he believes that his sister has been swapped
This was the fourth Richard Powers novel I read. After being so impressed by The Overstory last year, I decided to read one of his novels every month in reverse order of publication. I usually read an author in order of publication so doing Powers's books this way is giving me the weird sensation of experiencing an author devolving. In fact, so far I have liked each novel just a tiny bit less while remaining in awe of how he ties science and/or the arts to stuff that happens in real life.

Feb 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alright, I'm convinced. Richard Powers is a rambler. He rambles, extensively, through characters, plot, images. On and on. When he lights upon something interesting, he'll stay awhile (often too long), pressing into the depths with occasionally gorgeous sentences. But it's never really clear why he pauses, or why he keeps going -- it's just kinda the drawn-out, barely-coherent stories of some pretentious middle-aged white guy.

So in The Echo Maker, some of the sentences (and images) are certainly
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I cannot believe this won the National Book Award. What kind of crap was it up against? I finished it because, well, that's what I do, and because there was a bit of mystery, but I found the relationships and dialogue utterly unbelievable, the characters less sympathetic with every chapter, and the supposedly deep, intimate struggles simply dull.
The stuff about the brain and brain injury was interesting; I probably should have read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat instead.
Seriously, how d
Stacy Pershall
Feb 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The number of two-star reviews here amazes me! Please, if you've never read Richard Powers before, are considering it, and are put off by these reviews, take the chance and read his work anyway. As a writer, I go back to his books over and over when I need to be reminded exactly how beautiful writing works. His stuff is dense and intellectual, which can make it difficult, and yeah, his dialogue can be stilted, like he's so smart he has trouble making his characters less erudite than himself. But ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book won me over. Having just finished the excellentThe Time of Our Singing, I was at first underwhelmed by The Echo Maker, which seems a little more generic, but the novel is just expanding in my thoughts since finishing so that I will add my thoughts as they jell in a few days.
Anastasia Hobbet
Apr 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
About half-way through this book, I grew so weary of its repetitious and academic tone that I checked out the Goodreads and Amazon reviews, wondering if my reaction to it was just me. I'm vulnerable to that paranoia; but I found I had lots of company. Some people were ranting mad in their disappointment over this book. For some reason--stubbornness--I kept reading and ended up admiring the book. No, I don't think it didn't deserve the National Book Award, but there's mystery, keen and beautiful ...more
From a literary point of view, this rather is a disappointment: no sparkling prose, no warming story, no characters that you can or want to identify with, also no stylistic delights or ingenious changes in perspective, as in “The Time of our Singing”. This book seems conceptual and constructed, through and through, built around the problematic theme of self-image, the personal identity and how it is constructed by our brain.
Powers in this book uses three characters: Mark Schluter, a typical Mid
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was a gift from my brother who is a professor at the University of Nebraska. We both know Kearney quite well, having grown up less than thirty miles from there. Both of us have gone to see the Great Crane Migrations and we appreciate the awesome natural spectacle that takes place in our own backyard. The author was very clever to combine a medical and neuroscience drama with this natural phenomenon and I enjoyed the Nebraska references and descriptions immensely. However, I thought his ...more
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Having read this novel about memory loss nine years ago, my recollection isnt as sharp as it ought to be for a review, but having just read a 2014 mystery involving a complicated brain injury, this Powers book came to mind.

As a retired geoscientist, any book with solid research into the sciences appeals to me (The Martian and The Demon in the Freezer, for example, were awesome reads for me). I love learning about neurology in particular, and the details Powers put into Mark's injury as well as o
Oct 19, 2008 rated it liked it
I liked this book for its study of the human brain at different zoom levels; from the evolutionary scale of millions of years, our reptilian brain and deep-rooted animal instincts connecting us to the cranes, the intriguing species Powers has chosen to present his case. The narratives intertwining observations about the cranes, the water ways, and the human relationship to them (at once primevally close and irreparably distant) are beautifully woven and provide plenty of thought-provoking materi ...more
Thomas Paul
Aug 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
If you spent a week reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat while watching the Hallmark Channel, you might end up writing this novel. Mark Shluter has crashed his truck and his sister, Karin, quits her job and dumps her boyfriend to take care of him. But Mark suffered a brain injury in the accident and insists that his sister is not his sister but someone pretending to be his sister. A famous neurologist, Gerald Weber, arrives to see Mark so he can write about him in his next book. And so ...more
Nov 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Plot and formula won out over characters in this Powers effort. Although the description sounds quite intriguing, the execution was flat and undeveloped. To me, it seems as if Powers stumbled upon this concept of the Capgras Syndrome and decided to write about it. How interesting that a person could have this focused paranoia, where he believes everything in the world save one person or thing, whom he believes to be an impostor? Now, to write the book, it seems that Powers researched the disorde ...more
Robert Wells
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I’m going to try a different approach to this. I’m going to toss out words or thoughts that come to me as I recall this novel.

questions of self, such as are we who we think we are, and the key word here is think. Does the conscious self come from within, or is it merely an echo?
stories and narration – do humans live the story, that is, do we need to see or hear something before we incorporate it into our own self. Powers uses the mockingbird to demonstrate this in the novel.
is who w
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2011 rated it liked it
The Echo Maker explores the fragility of the self but so much of Mark’s world is now alien to him he is understandably angry but doesn’t excite my sympathy. I’m afraid I didn’t have much patience with the characters in the book : the expert, Dr Weber, realizes his anecdotal research is redundant in the face of empirical research and he faces his own melt down. Karin’s situation is compelling certainly, but she uses the two boyfriends, as she has in the past, and once again causes havoc in their ...more
Jennifer Arnold
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
Good God, this book brings new meaning to the word slow. It's the story of a brother and sister, Karin and Mark, raised by an unstable father and a religious fanatic of a mother. With both parents gone, Karin escapes Kearney, Nebraska to try to make a life for herself, only to be drawn back to Kearney out of her sense of duty to her brother Mark, who suffers severe closed-brain trauma in a mysterious car accident.

Mark suffers from Capgrass Syndrome, which leads him to believe that Karin has been
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Echo Maker discussion questions 1 3 Jun 14, 2019 08:49PM  
Why are people so divided about this book? 17 86 Oct 24, 2017 07:31AM  

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Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Overstory. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Award, and he has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Librarian note: There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.
“On the ride back south, she tapped all the anger-management tricks they'd given her in job training. They played across her windshield like PowerPoint slides. Number One: It's not about you. Number Two: Your plan is not the world's. Number Three: The mind can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. (24)” 8 likes
“Time didn't age you; memory did.” 4 likes
More quotes…