Bewilderment: A Novel

WW Norton & Co

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Robbie is a 9-year old boy with Asperger's-like traits, a precocious intelligence, a prodigious memory and exquisitely tuned to loss. A gifted young artist, he aims to draw all of the animals in danger of extinction. His father, Theo, is an astrobiologist, consumed with finding signs of life in the cosmos and raising Robbie alone after the tragic death of his wife, Aly. As Robbie's behaviour grows more unmanageable, Theo seeks out an experimental treatment conducted by Dr Martin Currier involving neurofeedback that enables Robbie to pattern his emotional responses on the recorded brainwave activity of his late mother. But as government funding is pulled from the study, Robbie suffers a precipitous decline with heart-breaking consequences. With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, tantalising vision of life beyond it and the ferocious love of a father for his young son, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers' most emotionally powerful novel to date. At its heart is the question: What is the world, at once perilous and imperilled, we've left for our children to inhabit, and can Theo save Robbie from it?