Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind.
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.
On a temperate stormy night
Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly
like my wife. This woman casually closed the door behind her.
In an oversized pale blue purseRemas purseshe was carrying
a russet puppy. I did not know the puppy. And the real Rema, she
doesnt greet dogs on the sidewalk, she doesnt like dogs at all.
The hayfeverishly fresh scent of Remas shampoo was filling the
air and through that brashness I squinted at this woman, and at
that small dog, acknowledging to myself only that something was
She, the woman, the possible dog lover, leaned down to de-shoe. Her hair obscured her face somewhat, and my migraine occluded the edges of my vision, but still, I could see: same unzipping of wrinkly boots, same taking off of same baby blue coat with jumbo charcoal buttons, same tucking behind ears of dyed cornsilk blonde hair. Same bangs cut straight across like on those dolls done up ...
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).
Full Review (534 words).
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 ...
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