From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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This novel, a finalist for the National Book Award, addresses the question of how we know who we really are. Mark, who repairs machinery at a meat-processing plant, suffers a head injury that prevents him from recognizing his sister Karin; he believes that she is a look-alike sent to spy on him. Karin, who has spent her life trying to escape their small Nebraska town, returns to old lovers and habits she thought she'd renounced. Stung by Mark's rejection, she sends a desperate plea to an Oliver Sacks-like neurologist whose popular books have suddenly come under critical attack, causing fissures in his public persona and his seemingly perfect marriage. Powers's smooth coincidences and cute patter can be unconvincing and leaden, and he has a tendency to lapse into distracting repetitions. Yet his philosophical musings have the energy of a thriller, and he gives lyrical, haunting life to the landscape of the Great Plains.
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