Bewilderment (Richard Powers)

Bewilderment follows Theo Byrne, a grieving widowed astrobiologist, and his son Robin as they navigate the complexities of grief. While Theo immerses himself in his research, searching for answers in the cosmos, Robin grapples with the loss of his mother. Their intertwined journey explores the depths of their grief, intertwining it with the wonders of the universe, and ultimately leads them to find solace, understanding, and a path towards healing.

Author: Richard Powers
List: Recent Prize Winner (short list)
Year of publication: 2021
Pages: 288





Plot Complexity: high
Language Complexity: high
Ideas Complexity: high

Bewilderment is a novel that captivates readers with its sophisticated language, intricate plot, and thought-provoking ideas. The author skillfully employs complex vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, creating a rich and immersive reading experience. The plot unfolds with intricate interconnections between characters and story lines, offering a captivating and layered narrative. The novel explores profound and intellectually engaging ideas, challenging readers to delve into complex themes and philosophical questions. Bewilderment demands active engagement from readers, rewarding them with a deeply satisfying and intellectually stimulating literary journey.


The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. Robin is a warm, kind boy who spends hours painting elaborate pictures of endangered animals. He’s also about to be expelled from third grade for smashing his friend in the face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo hopes to keep him off psychoactive drugs. He learns of an experimental neurofeedback treatment to bolster Robin’s emotional control, one that involves training the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain….

With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, its tantalizing vision of life beyond, and its account of a father and son’s ferocious love, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers’s most intimate and moving novel. At its heart lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?

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