On a winter night on a remote road in Nebraska, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter's truck turns over in a near fatal accident. His older sister, Karin, his only close relative, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when he emerges from a protracted coma, Mark believes that this woman - who ...
On a winter night on a remote road in Nebraska, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter's truck turns over in a near fatal accident. His older sister, Karin, his only close relative, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when he emerges from a protracted coma, Mark believes that this woman - who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister - is really an identical impostor. Shattered by her brother's refusal to recognise her, Karin contacts the cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber, famous for his case studies describing the infinitely bizarre worlds of brain disorder. Weber recognises Mark as a very unusual case of Capgras syndrome and is keen to investigate. But what he discovers in Mark begins to undermine even his own sense of self. Meanwhile, Mark, armed only with a note left by an anonymous witness, attempts to learn what happened on the night of his accident. The truth of that evening will change the lives of all three beyond recognition. Set against the spectacular spring migrations of American Sandhill cranes, "The Echo Maker" is a profound and riveting novel that explores how memory, instinct and relationships make us who we are.
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There's a good book buried in the padding here. The story of a bizarre brain injury is gripping and a good mystery is buried in it - when will the truth about the accident be revealed and what effect will it have on the relationships at the heart of the story?
The crane sanctuary and lyrical descriptions of the natural world belong in another book altogether.
Jan 14, 2009
An interesting, informative read
The book centers around Mark Schluter, a man in his late 20s who flips his truck in the middle of the night. His sister Karin races back home to care for him - and Mark makes it out of surgery. However, when he regains consciousness, he believes that the woman helping him is NOT his sister, but an impostor.
What Mark is suffering from, apparently due to the injury, is something called Capgras Delusion, or Capgras syndrome. This rare happenstance causes no shortage of emotional pain for Karin, and she seeks help everywhere, including from a noted author who writes about rare brain syndromes such as this.
The book has a few minor mysteries, some of which are quite well revealed and others which I didn't care as much about. Author Richard Powers does a nice job of writing from several perspectives: Karin, the doctor, and most interestingly, Mark the patient. He is a very talented writer, and his prose is both lyrical and modern, and it's a pleasure to read. While the book rarely captivated me, I enjoyed it quite a bit and would definitely recommend it.
Dec 20, 2007
Writing gets in the way of the story
No one in our book club really liked this book; even the discussion leader didn't finish it. The writing was too technical, the writer seemingly too impressed with his own writing skills. As Nebraskans, we identified with the winter scenes, but not with the characters. We also identified with the writer's fascination with the cranes. We had a good discussion about the plots, sub-plots and symbolism. Still, the general consensus was that the medical descriptions and even poetic descriptions interfered with the major theme of the book: trust in relationships.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-07-10 A truck jackknifes off an "arrow straight country road" near Kearney, Nebr., in Powers's ninth novel, becoming the catalyst for a painstakingly rendered minuet of self-reckoning. The accident puts the truck's 27-year-old driver, Mark Schluter, into a 14-day coma. When he emerges, he is stricken with Capgras syndrome: he's unable to match his visual and intellectual identifications with his emotional ones. He thinks his sister, Karin, isn't actually his sister-she's an imposter (the same goes for Mark's house). A shattered and worried Karin turns to Gerald Weber, an Oliver Sacks-like figure who writes bestsellers about neurological cases, but Gerald's inability to help Mark, and bad reviews of his latest book, cause him to wonder if he has become a "neurological opportunist." Then there are the mysteries of Mark's nurse's aide, Barbara Gillespie, who is secretive about her past and seems to be much more intelligent than she's willing to let on, and the meaning of a cryptic note left on Mark's nightstand the night he was hospitalized. MacArthur fellow Powers (Gold Bug Variations, etc.) masterfully charts the shifting dynamics of Karin's and Mark's relationship, and his prose-powerful, but not overbearing-brings a sorrowful energy to every page. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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