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InstaReview: Bewilderment by Richard Powers



"There are four good things worth practicing. Being kind toward everything alive. Staying level and steady. Feeling happy for any creature anywhere that is happy. And remembering that any suffering is also yours."

Richard Powers is known for his writing that focuses on the effects of modern life and technology- and often the negative impacts these have on the earth. Bewilderment follows in this path, unraveling a story about a scientist (Theo) and his quirky son (Robin), both of whom are grieving the loss of Theo's wife/Robin's mother. The plot is set in the near-term future, in a reality only slightly darker than our current timeline. Robin is struggling with behavioral and emotional disorders that threaten to disrupt their home lives, prompting him to undergo some experimental treatment that heightens his empathy. While this helps his behavior (and has some other interesting consequences that we won't reveal here), this empathy makes him increasingly concerned for the Earth and the multitude of ongoing ecological disasters that are causing the Sixth Extinction. This prompts a whole new set of issues for Robin and Theo to contend with, including political inaction/obstruction, among other very timely themes. This book made us feel simultaneously hopeful and full of despair and the poetic writing helps to convey some very poignant messages. We give this a 4.5!

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