Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: "Atmospheric Disturbances" by Rivka Galchen

This may be a first for me as far as really liking a book, but Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances, is a great book not because of the narrative behind it or the story it tells, but because of how strong the themes come through in what happens and what people do. Another 20 Under 40 writer, I remember her selection not being very good and a little too short to have that great of an effect on me. She is at least had a distinct voice that was new and fresh enough for me not to immediately connect her with a writer from a different generation, and I have nothing but respect for her. The story just did not do it for me. Having said that, Atmospheric Disturbances, was a book that I was looking forward to reading. It had a cool premise that promised intrigue and Murakami like searches for missing girls. I flipped through it, and found the interesting topography a little excessive, but sure as hell not like the kind found in a Foer book. I started this book, like I do all books, wanting to like it, but did not have the investment in it like I would have a writer I have read before. It is the story of a psychologist Dr. Leo Liebenstein, who comes home to find that his wife Rema has disappeared, and has been replaced by a simulacrum, a being just like her in every way. Determined in his knowledge of this imposter, and his desire to get his wife back, he goes to her hometown to find answers, and is thrust into a paranoid world of weather prediction which alienates those around him, even his fake wife. At first, I thought it was a little dense, even for it’s average size of 250 pages. I found that I was bogged down by the constant litany of weather and psychological jargon that I have no interest in. it lasts throughout the whole book, and gets a little tiring even with the constant chapter breaks. But I also found out that it was kind of supposed to be convoluted. Galchen is interested in how cold facts and information can coexist with real human feelings that are simple and truthful. And by the end, I found this books main theme, which is the problem that comes with finding a perfect mate. Leo had so little success with his love life, that when Rema came along, he was couldn’t believe she was right for him, so his mind subconsciously took his doubts, and manifested them in this disorder of thinking his wife if fake (I’m not spoiling anything here). She uses these facts about weather and psychiatry to describe the ways we sabotage good and beautiful things in our life due to self-deprecation, and by the end it is something very touching. I am little weary of my perfect rating, but right now, I feel it deserves one, and I highly recommend it
Rating: 5/5

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