Bewilderment: A Novel

Bewilderment: A Novel

by Richard Powers (Author)

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) 

Bewilderment: A Novel by Richard Powers is a profound and thought-provoking story that explores the complex relationship between a father and his neurodivergent son. Set in a near-future world where climate change has become a pressing reality, the novel delves into themes of love, loss, family, and the search for meaning in an uncertain world.

The protagonist, Theo Byrne, is a renowned astrobiologist who has dedicated his life to the study of extraterrestrial life. Despite his scientific achievements, Theo faces personal challenges as he struggles to connect with his young son, Robin, who is on the autism spectrum. Robin's unique perspective on the world and his inability to express himself in conventional ways often lead to misunderstandings and frustration between father and son.

As Theo grapples with his own grief and guilt over a past tragedy, he embarks on a quest to understand Robin's inner world and find a way to communicate with him. He seeks help from experts in neuroscience and psychology, but their conventional methods prove ineffective. It is only when Theo begins to embrace Robin's differences and accept him for who he is that a genuine connection begins to form between them.

Throughout the novel, Powers weaves together personal and global narratives, intertwining Theo's struggles with the larger context of climate change and the uncertain future of humanity. The novel raises questions about the nature of consciousness, the limits of human understanding, and the role of technology in shaping our lives.

With its rich characters, lyrical prose, and profound insights into the human condition, Bewilderment is a powerful and moving story that celebrates the beauty of difference and the enduring power of love.


September 21, 2021