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Publisher's Summary

An Oprah's Book Club Selection 

Shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize

Longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction 

A heartrending new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning and number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Overstory. 

I never believed the diagnoses the doctors settled on my son. When a condition gets three different names over as many decades, when it goes from non-existent to the country's most commonly diagnosed childhood disorder in one generation, when two different physicians want to prescribe three different medications, there's something wrong....   

Theo Byrne is a promising young astrobiologist who has found a way to search for life on other planets dozens of light years away. He is also the widowed father of a most unusual nine-year-old. His son, Robin, is funny, loving, and filled with plans. He thinks and feels deeply, adores animals, and can spend hours painting elaborate pictures. He is also on the verge of being expelled from third grade for smashing his friend's face with a metal thermos.  

What can a father do, when the only solution offered to his rare and troubled boy is to put him on psychoactive drugs? What can he say when his boy comes to him wanting an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction? The only thing for it is to take the boy to other planets, even while fostering his son's desperate campaign to help save this one.   

"Richard Powers is one of our country’s greatest living writers. He composes some of the most beautiful sentences I’ve ever read. I’m in awe of his talent." (Oprah Winfrey) 

©2021 Richard Powers (P)2021 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Bewilderment

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Not Usually a Richard Powers Fan

I am not a huge fan of Powers’ books. The author’s style and voice and topic rarely click with me. This book I have a chance because of an early print review. It was 100% worth every minute I spent listening to it. The writing is beautiful. The characters are carefully drawn as three dimensional beings. The science is explained in small snippets that get folded into the story as a whole. One once did I think “That was info-dumpy” but even then it was okay because it enriched the story that surrounded it. The main character and his son are dealing with very heavy life circumstances, but it was rendered in a way that makes you laugh through the tears. And the narration is top notch. Easily the best new book I’ve listened to this year!

9 people found this helpful

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gems of insight, glimmers of hope

Overstory was an epic, an impossible act to follow. Bewilderment has everything we love about Powers's novels, but on a smaller scale. He has a vision of all that is best about people and our time in history, and finds redemptive lives against a background of unfolding collision of capitalism with the global ecosystem that is the context for all life.

7 people found this helpful

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Brilliant novel

This novel will touch your heart as well as stimulate your brain. I love all of Powers books for their deep understanding of human beings as well as their deep knowledge of nature and science. Also, I suggest you try “ The Time of our Singing” which shows amazing understanding of the racial issues of our time.

5 people found this helpful

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Required Reading... A Modern Classic

What a phenomenal read! Incively brilliant, and a powerful commentary on both the world, humanity and the things that matter.

Ultimately a story about a father, Theo, left alone with his special child... "in no way is he deficit, and he certainly doesn't have a disorder", yet Robin is not a normal child. While prone to aggression and a tempermental nature, Robin has a pure love of science and nature. Without Theo's wife Aly, lost under tragic circumstances, it seems his life is falling apart until a new study treating behavioral conditions creates a remarkable change in Robin, but at what cost?

A story about heart and connections, this should be mandatory reading for all of us. Powers does a masterful job of weaving a social, ecological and emotional web that draws us in and shows us just how far humanity has come from a rational, positive race... as well as the way back, thru the eyes of a boy, a bird (flying backwards) and the universe.

5 people found this helpful

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Beyond Words

This novel is beyond describing. Richard Powers combines the problems of our struggling planet, the ignorance of most and the child who held truth up to the light of day. It is a story to read again, and again, so much to contemplate and consider. Definitely not an easy read and definitely a reminder of what we earthlings have destroyed and our insipid refusal to accept responsibility or to fund projects to save any of us. In this fictitious novel, we may be shocked by what has and is continuing to occur to destroy planet Earth. Powers words may inspire a call to action, a new respect for scientific inquiry and maybe change.

4 people found this helpful

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made me cry

no one articulates the interconnection of life better than Richard Powers. thank you for opening my eyes and my heart

3 people found this helpful

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Brilliantly Devastating

Written in the not too distant future of continuing environmental collapse and animal extinction, what do you do with a child who personally feels the suffering of each threatened species? This brilliantly written novel depicts the agonizing struggle of a father wishing to protect his different son from traditional labels and treatments. At the same time he has a need to foster an appreciation for the natural world they both love. The many who disregard the facts of science have devastating consequences on of these beloved characters.

3 people found this helpful

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Beautiful new modern classic

Reading "Bewilderment" is a sacred experience. I will follow Richard Powers wherever he leads. The audiobook narration is FANTASTIC.

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Great start, then too much sci-fi

A great premise and great start to the book. Beautiful writing. Eventually too much science-fiction mixed amidst real science. And the ending is a foregone conclusion because Powers has painted himself into a corner.
Lastly all the characters while being interesting in the fabric of the story are as individuals, too UN-nuanced, too much like stock characters.

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating and flawed-as we all are

I adored the Overstory. I was pulled into this book even though it is more linear, more polemical, perhaps less well written. I was challenged, engaged and believe Bewilderment is an important book to read and discuss.

2 people found this helpful