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Atmospheric Disturbances: A Novel Hardcover – May 27, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374200114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374200114
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2008: Imagine what it might be like to realize that the person you love is, in fact, not the person you love but a doppelgänger: or, what Leo Liebenstein coolly terms a "simulacrum" of his wife Rema at the outset of Atmospheric Disturbances. David Byrne's infamous cry that "this is not my beautiful wife" seems the most likely response, but Leo's reaction to this sea change takes unpredictable and dazzlingly plotted turns in the story that follows. Leo's journey to recover the "real" Rema is nothing short of byzantine; among its many mysteries is the delightfully inscrutable Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, a master meteorologist who in cleverly constructed flashback sequences takes up residence in the daily rhythms of Leo and Rema's marriage and becomes as much a focus of Leo's obsession as his wife's whereabouts. (Think Vertigo but directed by Charlie Kaufman.) Make no mistake: this is dizzying debut fiction, bursting at the spine with beautifully articulated ideas about love, yes, but also--and with maddening resonance--about the private wars love forces us to wage with ourselves. Be sure to keep a pen or pencil handy: it's impossible to resist underlining prose this good. --Anne Bartholomew

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this enthralling debut, psychiatrist Dr. Leo Liebenstein sets off to find his wife, Rema, who he believes has been replaced by a simulacrum. Also missing is one of Leo's patients, Harvey, who is convinced he receives coded messages (via Page Six in the New York Post) from the Royal Academy of Meteorology to control the weather. At Rema's urging, Leo pretends during his sessions with Harvey to be a Royal Academy agent (she thinks the fib could help break through to Harvey), and once Re- ma and Leo disappear, Leo turns to actual Royal Academy member Tzvi Gal-Chen's meteorological work to guide him in his search for his wife. Leo's quest takes him through Buenos Aires and Patagonia, and as he becomes increasingly delusional and erratic, Galchen adeptly reveals the actual situation to readers, including Rema's anguish and anger at her husband. Leo's devotion to the real Rema is heartbreaking and maddening; he cannot see that the woman he seeks has been with him all along. Don't be surprised if this gives you a Crying of Lot 49 nostalgia hit. (June)
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Customer Reviews

I'm sorry i really wanted to like this book but it was just too difficult to enjoy.
Stephen ralph
I found this book to be completely annoying with its need to be quirky, its boring, unnecessary details and lunatic characters.
Victoria
Atmospheric Disturbances is a funny and haunting reflection on relationships and love.
D.A. Withington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner VINE VOICE on August 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Be warned: despite its publisher's synopsis, this book is not another rewrite of Jack Finney's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"! Instead, Rivka Galchen's "Atmospheric Disturbances" may just do for Capgras Syndrome (a rare mental disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that someone they know has been replaced by an identical-seeming impostor) what Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" did for Asperger Syndrome (and autism generally) back in 2003. Told from a similar first-person perspective, "Atmospheric Disturbances" chronicles the increasingly irrational behaviour of its protagonist as he attempts to track down and recover his real wife following her mysterious replacement one night by a doppelganger. But whereas Mark Haddon spends most of his book building up the reader's empathy with (or at least sympathetic understanding of) his teenage autistic protagonist, before finally making us aware of just how far from any understanding or real empathy we are, Rivka Galchen engages us mostly with the puzzle that her protagonist is himself battling to solve.

The central puzzle afflicting clinical psychiatrist Dr Leo Liebenstein is essentially the unexplained disappearance of his wife, Rema, and her replacement with a simulacrum which only Leo recognises as not being the real Rema.
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Anna Karenina on October 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As much as this book is ingenious, clever, unique, poetic, and philosophical, I regret to say that it's tedious. There is simply no momentum, after the first 25 pages. The relationships have no plausibility. There is not enough plot, not enough real life. The main character does not "read" believably as a middle aged man. His mental life does not hang together as a genuine possibility. Events don't seem real. While reading I keep feeling like I was counting grains of sand, or sifting through cookie crumbs, or maybe sinking in quick sand. Although the amusing, clever gems kept coming, the novel didn't create a palpable world I could enter into.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Massimo Pigliucci on July 28, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's about a not-so-slow descent into insanity on the part of the main character, who is also the narrator. The twist is that the crazy nut is himself a psychiatrist, and he enlists one of his own patients to solve the apparent mystery at the heart of the book. Of course, there is no solution to the mystery because there is no real mystery. Or is there? It's a pretty good idea, but I'm pretty sure the author could have done much, much better with it. The book is enjoyable as far as it goes, and I did manage to finish it despite a couple of really low points at which I was seriously tempted to move on to something else. What could have been dealt with significantly better is, perhaps not surprisingly, the ending. But I won't go there because I would have to write something that would spoil your reading. Assuming you are crazy enough to get through the book, of course.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By C.A. Wulff on November 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very strange book.

Some reviewers have likened Galchen to Murakami, but although both writers paint surreal landscapes with words, Murakami's landscapes are masterpieces along the lines of Salvadore Dali, Galchen is more like Gregoire Michonze.

Galchen's main character is a psychiatrist who one day looks at his wife and convinces himself that she is an imposter. Her "disappearance" inexplicably coincides with the disappearance of one of his patients. While "searching" for his "real wife", he becomes an imposter himself: to his patient, his mother-in-law and any number of individuals linked to a covert meteorological society that purports to control the weather.

I didn't like Atmospheric Disturbances. The perspective of the main character is so delusionally skewed that it made me feel mentally ill as I tried to keep up with his train of illogical thought. I found the discussions on meteorology tedious and the allegories difficult to grasp. I have a deep suspicion that I Just Didn't Get It.

Although the story hooked me and drew me in, I found it an almost entirely joyless read.

C.A.Wulff - author of Born Without a Tail
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By mojosmom VINE VOICE on March 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While browsing the "New Books" shelf at my library, I picked up this book, which begins: "Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife." Intrigued, I stood and read the first couple of pages and thought, "I must read this". Sadly, I have to report that the book does not live up to its promise.

When the protagonist, New York psychiatrist Leo Liebenstein, arrives at this conclusion, he is also dealing with a patient, Harvey, who believes that he is receiving secret orders from the Royal Academy of Meteorology in controlling the world's weather. Leo's "false" wife, Rema, whom he refers to as "the simulacrum", suggests that he pretend to be an agent of the RAM as well, transmitting directions from a meteorologist named Tsvi Gal-Chen. The relationship between this therapeutic fraud and Leo's search for the real Rema are the crux of Galchen's book.

Now, am I right? Those plots, and their intertwining, ought to make for good reading. But Galchen's prose is so dense and convoluted that it was hard to get through the book, much less enjoy it. I don't mind that it's never clear whether Liebenstein is himself suffering from mental illness (some reviews firmly state that he is suffering from Capgras Syndrome, though Galchen is never definite) or whether Rema really has been replaced by a fake. Nor do I mind that it's unclear whether the RAM really is trying to stop a cabal of errant meteorologists. What I do mind is that Galchen never makes me care about the outcome or her characters, so at the end (which is very unsatisfying, by the way) I just felt as though my struggle to finish had been a waste of time.
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