Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about The Echo Maker are
resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more
author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place
and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Echo
About the Book
Published to wide critical acclaim and winner of the National Book Award,
Richard Powerss The Echo Maker tells the haunting story of twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter,
who survives a
nearly fatal car accident only to face a devastating new perception of the
world. Coping with the
consequences of traumatic brain injury, Mark lives with a blend of paranoid
including the belief that his caregiving sister, Karin, is an imposter who
merely looks, acts, and
sounds just like his sister.
Desperate for a treatment to end these strange,
Karin enlists the help of internationally renowned cognitive neurologist Gerald
for studying some of the worlds most bizarre brain disorders. What Gerald
uncovers in the
prickly terrain of Marks mind begins to undermine even his own sense of self.
answers to a question that bridges medicine and memory, both Gerald and Mark
shards of the past, while the true answers lie on the lonely Nebraska road where
mysteriously crashed during that tragic winter night.
A searing novel that probes the boundaries of trust between friends and lovers,
patients, siblings and parents, The Echo Maker gives us an inventive new glimpse
of the minds
The questions that follow are designed to enhance your experience of The Echo
Maker. We hope they will enrich your book groups reading of this stirring
What echoes do the cranes create throughout the novel? What do the
cranes signify to those
who admire themtourists, environmentalists, local residents along the
Platte River? What
parallels exist between the echo of the migrating birds and the echoes
lurking in Marks shattered
How would you characterize the sibling dynamics between Mark and Karin?
How much of
their former relationship remains intact after his accident? Would you have
sacrificed as much as
Karin did to help an injured brother or sister?
What is Bonnies stake in helping Mark heal? Is her perception of the
world distorted, like
Marks, or is she actually his best chance for returning to rational
thinking? How does she cope
with Dr. Webers assertion that faith in God has a neurological component?
Discuss the Nebraska landscape as if it were a character in the novel.
What makes it alluring
as well as daunting? In what way does the regions personality mirror that
of its inhabitants?
Which segments of Mark and Karins childhood do they most want to
recall? Which memories
of their parents continue to hurt them? Is either sibling on a path, perhaps
even unwittingly, of
carrying on their parents legacies?
What contemporary environmental concerns are reflected in the showdown
over the Central
Platte Scenic Natural Outpost? Is Daniel equally zealous about his
relationship with Karin?
Were you suspicious of Barbara in the novels early chapters? How did
your perception of her
shift? How would you have responded if you had been in her position on the
night of the
In part three, Karin tells Daniel she thinks Mark might have been better
off if she had stayed
away. How can we know the difference between selfless and self-serving
caregiving? In the end,
was Karin right to remain in Marks life to such an intense extent?
What aspects of body, soul, and memory are presented in the epigraphs
the book? Taken by themselves, do these quotations underscore or contradict
In what ways did Gerald take on a fatherly role for Karin and Mark? Was
their perception of
him any more accurate than that of the fans who attended his lectures or saw
him on television?
What aspects of his true self was Gerald able to reclaim in Nebraska? What
do you predict for
his future with Sylvie and Jess?
From the friends who figure prominently in his life, particularly Duane
Cain and Tom Rupp,
and the figures who represent fear (such as Robert Karsh) what picture of
Marks past were you
able to piece together? What is the best way to discern the truth when
Did Capgras syndrome make any aspects of Marks perception crystal clear
or even closer to
reality than his caregivers view of life? What universal experiences are
reflected in his inability
to accept the identity of someone who loves him, or, near the end, to
acknowledge that he is fully
How did you ultimately interpret the note? For each of the main
characters, what did it mean
to be no one? In the end, who else was brought back?
What does Karin have to discover about the minds ability to shape
memories? How does her
understanding of her past change throughout Marks illness?
In what ways does The Echo Maker enhance themes in previous novels by
you have read? What is unique about his approach to topics as far-ranging as
science and history,
deception and devotion?
For more information on Picador Reading Group Guides:
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Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Picador.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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