Bewilderment

Richard Powers

An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here. A heartrending new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning and #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Overstory. The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. more

FictionScience FictionLiterary FictionContemporaryNatureAudiobookEnvironmentNovelsFamilyAdult Fiction

278 pages, Hardcover
First published W. W. Norton Company

3.92

Rating

58244

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7545

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Richard Powers

347 books 4660 followers

Richard Powers has published thirteen novels. He is a MacArthur Fellow and received the National Book Award. His most recent book, The Overstory, won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. He lives in the Great Smoky Mountains.

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

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Marchpane
311 reviews
2480 followers
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I wanted to tell the man that life itself is a spectrum disorder, where each of us vibrated at some unique frequency in the continuous rainbow. I was not nearly as enamoured by this super-hyped book as I thought I might be, and I think I can pin it down to three main reasons. 1) A novel-length Neruda poem is not really my thing. Don't get me wrong, I've gotten tingles like everyone else when I see a quote like: I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul. I have no idea what that means but I like it. more


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Adina
999 reviews
4138 followers
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Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2021Longlisted for the National Book Awards 2021…the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light…—Plato’s Allegory of the Cave"But where is everybody. "—Enrico FermiBewilderment fits into a very specific niche genre that just happens to be my catnip: smart literary fiction, with some crunchy yet accessible philosophy, lifted out of the every day by speculative or fabulist elements. Stories still tethered to reality but floating just high enough above it to alter the view. Even better if it’s both intellectually and emotionally engaging. Theo is a recently widowed astrobiologist raising a young son, Robin. more


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Henk
912 reviews
0 followers
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Shortlisted for 2021 Booker prize. 3. 5* rounded up. First of all, I should mention that Bewilderment is the 1st novel I’ve read by Richard Powers. As a result, my opinion was not biased by reading his so called masterpiece, the Overstory. more


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Eric Anderson
690 reviews
3511 followers
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Bewilderment should have been the book for me based on the topics (I for instance actually like astronomy) but it didn't. I found it overly on the nose and sentimental. Maybe humanity was a nine-year-old, not yet grown up, not a little kid anymore. Seemingly in control, but always on the verge of rage. Bewilderment tells the story of neurodivergent Robin Byrne, 9, and his astrobiologist father, who is recently widowed. more


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Paromjit
2847 reviews
25317 followers
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I was awed by the majesty of Richard Powers' enormous, thought-provoking and imaginative novel “The Overstory”. Even though I felt some of the interlinking stories worked better than others, I was so compelled and impressed with how that book engaged with environmental activism in such a dynamic way. His new novel “Bewilderment” also addresses climate change and animal extinction but in a more concentrated story. It concerns Theo, an astrobiologist who seeks to demonstrate a complex method of searching for life on other planets, and his nine-year-old son Robin, a lively and unpredictable boy who cares passionately about the environment. As we follow their lives over the course of a troubled year, Theo struggles to care for his emotionally erratic son and allows him to be used in an experimental trial to stabilize the boy's behaviour. more


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Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
1900 reviews
1474 followers
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On the 2021 Booker Prize Shortlist Richard Powers latest offering is a more human, ambitious, profoundly moving, genre defying novel that echoes, consolidates and moves on from The Overstory, a blend of science, fact and fiction. At its core is the incredible bond and love between a widowed father, astrobiologist at the University of Madison, Wisconsin, Theo Byrne, and his bright, kind, if emotionally volatile, troubled 9 year old son, Robin. Both are grieving the loss of wife and mother, birdwatcher Alyssa 'Aly', passionate environmentalist and activist, who died in a accident, still looming large in their lives. It is set in a U. S. more


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Kevin Kuhn
187 reviews
623 followers
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He rehearsed memories endlessly, and every repetition of the details made him happier. When he finished a book he liked, he’d start it again immediately, from page one. So having read and loved (let alone liked) an ARC of this book ahead of the Booker longlist announcement (on which I was rightly sure it would feature) it seems appropriate to start it again on its print publication a week after its shortlisting for the 2021 Booker PrizeMy views on the book on a second read (and also having read a number of other reviews both here and in the press - at the time I originally reviewed I think there were at best a handful of reviews anywhere) are to further strengthen (and confirm) my views on both the book's tremendous strengths and its clear weakenesses. But my overall view is to echo the view of Aly on mankind No novel is perfect - but this one falls short so beautifullyORIGINAL REVIEW They share a lot, astronomy and childhood. Both are voyages across huge distances. more


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David
299 reviews
1107 followers
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Powers has written a tender allegory that drifts from despair to melancholy and then back again into the dark. The setting is either the near future, or a parallel world that echoes our social perils and ecological failures. Powers is whip smart, finding all kinds of intricate connections and clever observations that magnify the theme and ignite curiosity. The story feels honest and authentic. Written in first person, it often felt like someone describing their actual experiences. more


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Elyse Walters
4010 reviews
11177 followers
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I really enjoyed large parts of this, particularly the more tender moments between Theo and Robin. The emotional heart of Bewilderment is a story about a recently widowed father and his young son coming to terms with the death of their wife and mother. At that level, I thought this was excellent. The story faltered when the science babble took over, as it often did, which led to some pretty silly dialogue. The eco-activism was also a bit on the nose. more


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Sean Barrs
1121 reviews
46487 followers
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Audiobook/ebook sync 7 hours and 51 minutes for the audio…. and narrated by Edoardo Ballerini I never finished “Overstory”…. but I do want to return to it. Once I started ‘Bewilderment’ - worried I wouldn’t connect with it - or understand it - I was pleasantly surprised…. ( don’t laugh) …> I thought, “whew”…. more


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karen
3992 reviews
171083 followers
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“Everybody knows what’s happening. But we all look away. ” How do we tell our children that the world is on the brink of environmental collapse. Bewilderment explores this question by borrowing elements from Flowers for Algernon, creating a character whose regressive condition can be mitigated through contact with his deceased mother’s brain patterns. The mother was a vegan activist. more


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Diane S ☔
4804 reviews
14252 followers
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I'd missed something obvious, in over thirty years of reading and two thousand science fiction books: there was no place stranger than here. powers' last novel, The Overstory, was met with such across-the-board praise, such reverence, that it's almost shocking how poorly this one has been received. i get why people dislike it—the trump/greta thunberg stuff is kludgy, the planetary bedtime stories are distracting, and robin is wicked annoying. Don't worry, Dad. We might not figure it out. more


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Meike
1642 reviews
3424 followers
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Robin is nine years old. His father is an astrobiologist, teaching and participating in research at the University in Madison, Wisconsin. His mother was killed in a vehicle accident when Robin was seven. He is a different boy, strongly empathetic, unable to control his emotions. He has been diagnosed with various labels, but his father doesn't want to use drugs to change, control his son. more


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Dwayne
121 reviews
152 followers
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Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2021Nominated for the National Book Award 2021Aaah, this is a tough one: I have to admit that I found this novel incredibly affecting and emotionally disturbing, but I'm not sure whether Powers intended readers to accept the actions of the main character, Theo, uncritically - if so (and that's how many seem to have interpreted the book), that's a problem. The story is told from Theo's point of view, a grieving astrobiologist who recently lost his wife and who is now trying to raise his (at the beginning) seven-year-old son Robin by himself. Robin is deeply traumatized because he has lost his mother and then, shortly after, his dog, he shows severe behavioral problems, but finds purpose in following in his mother's footsteps: She was a lawyer for an NGO aiming to protect the environment. Now Robin wants to help endangered animals, and the state of the natural world becomes new fuel for his depression. So after The Overstory, Powers is back at ecofiction, but he gives it a new, painful twist: He shows us a young boy who does not have a defence mechanism to deal with the impending environmental catastrophe- and the author basically asks: Isn't he, like Greta Thunberg (who is autistic and features in a very thin disguise), the sane one, aren't the people who perceive his behavior as a problem emotionally stunted and denying reality. more


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Alan
585 reviews
251 followers
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I'm really on the fence about this book. On one hand, I understand what the writer was trying to do. I get it. On the other hand, I really didn't like it as much as I wanted to. A shame, really, as it's really not a bad book. more


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Dolors
548 reviews
2519 followers
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This reads like the marginalia of the high school senior who was snobby as hell in English class and also happened to be taking a single biology class. Powers is drowning in the shallow end of a pool of half-baked metaphors and similes. That’s it. Behold:• I exhaled, changing the atmosphere inside our tent. • One quadrillion neural connections lay on the inflatable camping pillow next to me. more


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Colin Baldwin
171 reviews
288 followers
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I feel a bit contrite to rate this book with only three stars, mainly because it had the ambition to grasp the vast dimension of the whole universe within its few pages and I barely glimpsed three of its celestial bodies. As much as I admire what Richard Powers wanted to achieve with this multilayered story, mixing science-based themes, dystopia, the wonder and imagination of a nine year-old and the bond between a father and his son, I wasn’t as moved as I expected to be. There are brilliant, even sublime moments in the narration. Sentences that stop you in your tracks for the transcendence Powers encapsules in a few words. There is blinding love for the world, for the magic nature bestows upon us with every day, even if the human race is headed towards absurd self-destruction. more


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Maxwell
1224 reviews
9784 followers
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I want to use the word ‘bewildered’ to describe my response to this novel but accept that that would get people to roll their eyes. A synonym check gives me baffled, flabbergasted, mystified, perplexed, but in the end, I am bewildered. I want to say something intelligent but default to the other well-written reviews, both positive and negative. The writing style is interesting… I don’t know if Powers deliberately attempts to make the reader feel isolated, outside the story. If so, that is clever. more


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Neil
1007 reviews
697 followers
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Shortlisted for the 2021 Booker PrizeRichard Powers, what are you doing to us. This was one of the most emotionally moving books I’ve read in ages. Theo and Robin felt like real people. I had very minor qualms with some of the sci-fi bits but I can absolutely overlook that. I don’t have many intelligent thoughts to write about this one. more


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Roman Clodia
2574 reviews
3362 followers
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Now re-read. Part of me was a bit nervous about re-reading this. Some of the discussion on the M&G Booker thread had tarnished the book for me and I felt I would only see flaws as I read it. And it's not perfect. But I actually ended up enjoying it more on second reading than I did on first. more


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Liam O'Leary
496 reviews
127 followers
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Now Longlisted for The Booker Prize 2021Such a rich, multilayered and passionate book that explores astrobiology, the funding of scientific research, man's predations of the planet, US politics around all these issues - but the heart of the story lies in a tender tale of paternal love for a nine year old son deemed different by his school and medical professionals who want to pathologise him and put him on drugs to control his behaviour. I'm not usually one to go all mushy over kids in books but young Robin just stole my heart with his intelligence and his care and his original outlook, and I loved this. Powers wears his learning lightly but some of the science made my head spin - all the same, the very human story that binds this complex book together won me over completely. Many thanks to Random House, Cornerstone for an ARC via NetGalley. more


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Matthew Ted
832 reviews
820 followers
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Video Review (YouTube, more of a rant than normal)I would like to thank Netgalley and Random House UK for the honor of reading Bewilderment before its commercial release. This is the hardest review I remember writing. I really don't think everyone will love reading this, because I did not find it uplifting or touching as other reviewers have. However, I still think it will be shortlisted and stands a very good chance of winning the Booker Prize, because it is highly topical and relevant to the 'pandemic era' we are (hopefully) beginning to leave. When I started Bewilderment I really thought I'd like it based on the blurb. more


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Jenny (Reading Envy)
3876 reviews
3478 followers
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13th book of 2022. So, so bad. I pretty much hated this; it was somehow worse than The Overstory, which was terrible. If you know the plot of Flowers for Algernon, you already know the plot to this: save yourself the time. I usually like to say some good things about everything I read but this was so awful, I probably won’t. more


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Brenda ~The Book Witch at Witch Words
845 reviews
875 followers
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"Which is bigger, outer space or inner. "-Richard Powers, BewildermentPay no attention to the NY Times Book Review - this book is shortlisted for the Booker and longlisted for the National Book Award, and is as worthy of a read as Powers' previous works. Theo is an astrobiologist in a near future world where schools are banned from teaching evolution and science is even less in favor from the powers that be than ever despite the climate collapsing around them. In the wake of the loss of his wife, his world collapses to the size of his research and his son. Robin is 9 and the schools see him as a problem to be medicated, but Theo takes him in another direction. more


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Gerhard
1141 reviews
684 followers
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Bewilderment is not an easy read; it’s a complicated, heavy, ambitious, emotionally intelligent read. It requires critical thinking, patience, and time to reflect on the themes. It is steeped in science, and at times, I lost patience with it, and it took me a long time to get through the story. It is also an extraordinary, tender, insightful story that offers us many questions to ponder about the themes. ThemesA lot is going on here with the story’s themes, and it is laid out there for us what is at stake. more


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David
638 reviews
159 followers
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Can we sit by the water first, before we pitch the tent. The day was fresh and clear, with hours of light left and no chance of rain. “We can sit by the river for as long as it takes. ” As long as what takes. “To figure out the human race. more


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Trudie
562 reviews
649 followers
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This is the story of a visionary scientist and grieving father whose fierce love for his unique son (also grieving) is both a blessing and a curse. As expected from Richard Powers, it is intelligent, geopolitical in tone, celebratory of the natural world, and condemnatory of anything that threatens or destroys the environment. He also champions the safety and security of all creatures, and their peaceful coexistence on Planet Earth. All under the guise of fiction, of course, but it is clear who is speaking and what messages are being delivered. My own politics and beliefs appear to be very similar to the author's, and I should have adored this book. more


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Justo Martiañez
432 reviews
155 followers
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Previous to this novel I had admired rather than loved Richard Powers. Watching as he wrestles the hard sciences into some form of literary catnip can be exhausting. His themes are grand, high concept affairs: technology, environmental destruction, the very future of the human race. He takes a dim view of humanity generally. Cataloguing our attempts to fling ourselves into oblivion with our collective apathy. more


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Emily B
458 reviews
480 followers
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4/5 EstrellasDesconcierto por una sociedad que está ciega ante el cambio climático y que va directa hacia la destrucción de la Naturaleza y nuestros ecosistemas y, por tanto, hacia nuestra propia autodestrucción. Desconcierto ante un Universo enorme con millones de planetas potencialmente similares a nuestra Tierra, que podrían tener vida, pero que permanece en "silencio" (Paradoja de Fermi). Desconcierto ante la deriva autoritaria que se está produciendo en las llamadas democracias occidentales, que están involucionando a marchas forzadas hacia posiciones extremadamente conservadoras y nacionalistas. Todo este "desconcierto" es el que sufre nuestro protagonista, Robin, un niño especial de 9 años, con unas facultades excepcionales, que sufre increíblemente por la Tierra y por todos sus habitantes. Un niño que acaba de perder a su madre y cuyo padre, astrobiólogo de profesión, intenta educar de la mejor manera posible encauzando su energía hacia el conocimiento, pero que asiste cada vez con mayor frustración a episodios de ira incontrolada, con la que su hijo intenta escapar de ese desconcierto que no entiende y que asedia su mente. more


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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book. This was my first Richard powers read and I requested it because I’ve heard good things about his previous novels. I appreciated the environmental issues that were raised in this book. Although no time era was specified it felt very relevant. I know astrobiology was a key part of the novel but I found it a bit much at times and wanted to skip over the details as I didn’t think they added to the story on the whole. more


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