When Dr. Leo Liebensteins wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like heror almost exactly like herand even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love.
With the help of his psychiatric patient Harveywho believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weatherLeo attempts to unravel the mystery of the spousal switch. His investigation leads him to the enigmatic guidance of the meteorologist Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, the secret workings of the Royal Academy of Meteorology in their cosmic conflict with the 49 Quantum Fathers, and the unwelcome conviction that somehow heor maybe his wife, or maybe even Harveylies at the center of all these unfathomables. From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leos erratic quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.
Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. With tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen investigates the moment of crisis when you suddenly realize that the reality you insist upon is no longer one you can accept, and the person you love has become merely the person you live with. This highly inventive debut explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.
Galchen is both playful and serious, and has an impressive instinct for how far she can push the boundaries and how much she can ask of her readers. She constructs beautiful sentences, and uncovers humor inherent in language, reveling in mis-hearings, botched translations, and the allure and poetry of scientific writing just outside the layperson's ken. She makes a completely preposterous premise come alive with equal parts fun and heartache, and is generous with her myriad gifts to the very end. Some readers may find the novel's ambiguous reality unmanageable or unsatisfying, but it's exactly what kept me up late to the last page, and what kept me thinking about its strange world long after I closed the cover. (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
What Galchen has done is play out that sad realization in the mind of a psychotic psychiatrist, a man thoroughly versed in others' delusions but unable to perceive his own.
[A] dense, fractally complex first novel by the conspicuously talented Rivka Galchen.
Entertaiment Weekly - Jennifer Reese
There are passages so achingly beautiful in Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances — about love, resilience, and perception — that you will not mind picking through a high-concept narrative that would have worked better as a short story. A-.
Galchen's astonishing debut is rich in detail and scientific exploration and a kind of dreamy psychological dissembling that keeps the reader as baffled as Leo right to the end. This dense, brilliant novel should be much in demand.
Starred Review. [An] enthralling debut...don't be surprised if this gives you a Crying of Lot 49 nostalgia hit.
Everything is other than it appears to be in Galchen's assured debut--an intricate puzzle powered by urgently beating heart . . . A superb first novel.
His search for Rema starts to lose steam two-thirds of the way in, and the science can get a bit clunky. But the story is genuinely suspenseful, and Leo’s clause-heavy patter feels fresh and wry—his perspective curiously weird—even as he unravels. Ms Galchen is a writer to be watched.
The Independent - Jonathan Gibbs
The English love talking about the weather, but they don't write about it enough. We should feel suitably chastened that it has taken a New Yorker to write this intriguing meteorological novel, in which the weather doesn't just set the scene, but drives the hero's every move ....
Some might bristle at mental illness being co-opted yet again for fashionable metaphors. That aside, this is a diverting and impressive debut.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kim Exceptionally creative & well-written first novel This novel isn't your run-of-the-mill missing person mystery. It's a very complex portrait of a man's descent into insanity -- from the viewpoint of the madman who thinks himself sane. Galchen's writing is amazing, and this is a "must-read" for... Read More
The idea of simulacrum, or impostors, has long been a subject of fascination in
fiction, and Capgras syndrome, or variations on its symptoms, often crop up in
short stories and novels. Most recently,
The Echo Maker by Richard Powers revolves around a character who suffers
from Capgras syndrome after he suffers a head injury in a car accident.
While the unreliable narrator of Atmospheric Disturbances is
constantly evaluating and analyzing himself, he does so with increasingly
suspect reasoning, and never touches on the obvious psychological cause for his
belief that his wife has been replaced by an impostor.
Capgras syndrome, or Capgras delusion is a rare disorder in which the afflicted
person recognizes all the physical features of another human being, usually a
family member or close friend, but believes that the person they're seeing is an
identical impostor. The French psychiatrist Jean Marie Joseph Capgras first
described the disease in 1923, after treating a Madame M. who...
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