On a winter night on a remote road in Nebraska, Mark Schluter's truck turns over in a near fatal accident.
His sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their home town to look after him.
But when he finally awakes from his coma, Mark believes that Karin - who looks, acts and sounds just like his sister - is really an identical imposter.
Shattered by her brother's refusal to recognise her, Karin contacts Dr Gerald Weber, famous for his case studies describing the infinitely bizarre worlds of brain disorder.
But what Weber discovers in Mark begins to undermine even his own sense of self.
Meanwhile Mark, armed only with a note left by an anonymous witness, attempts to learn what happened on the night of his accident.
The truth of that evening will change the lives of all three beyond recognition.
Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 576 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 08/12/2007
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780099506027
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Review by dudara
American author Richard Powers explores the ideas of mind, soul and self in this prize-winning novel. Mark Schluter suffers a near-fatal car crash one cold night and awakes unable to recognise his only sister, Karen. In fact, he believes that Karen is a doppelganger of the version he has in his memories. He is diagnosed as suffering from the extremely rare disorder known as Capgras Syndrome. Over the course of the novel his paranoia develops even further.Karen, who has given up her house and job to come take care of her brother, is deeply hurt by his inability to acknowledge her as his sister, contacts famous popular author and neurologist Gerald Weber.Weber's character and his battle with his demons add a further strand to this deftly woven novel. After a series of well-received popular science books, he now faces some critical rejection and struggles to deal with it. Each character is suffering through their own mental problems and this allows the book to expand and examine the nature of memory, reality and identity. Add in the mystery character of Barbara, who fights her own demons, which are revealed at the end of the book, and we have a host of characters struggling with their own mental problems and issues. Over the course of a year, the author invokes some beautiful imagery as he describes the cyclical journey of the threatened crane. Every year the crane return to the Nebraska town where this novel is set, as they move on their migrational path. Despite the grand scale of this book, and the weighty topics that it tackles (self-identity, memory and love), it somehow fails to ultimately satisfy. It is a demanding read, and we do become more and more involved as Mark struggles to deal with the differences in his memory and to find out what happened to him that cold night. However, there is some spark of emotion missing in the novel that would fully bind you to the characters.