A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Salon.com Top Ten Book of the Year
A Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Best Book of the Year
A Slate Best Book of the Year
Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances is a "witty, tender, and conceptually dazzling" (Booklist) novel about the mysterious nature of human relationships.
When Dr. Leo Liebenstein's wife disappears, she leaves behind a single confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her. A simulatcrum. But Leo is not fooled, and he knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the real Rema is alive and in hiding, he embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim her. With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey--who believes himself to be a secret agent able to control the weather--his investigation leads him from the streets of New York City to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, in search of the woman he loves.
In this enthralling debut, psychiatrist Dr. Leo Liebenstein sets off to find his wife, Rema, who he believes has been replaced by a simulacrum. Also missing is one of Leo's patients, Harvey, who is convinced he receives coded messages (via Page Six in the New York Post) from the Royal Academy of Meteorology to control the weather. At Rema's urging, Leo pretends during his sessions with Harvey to be a Royal Academy agent (she thinks the fib could help break through to Harvey), and once Re- ma and Leo disappear, Leo turns to actual Royal Academy member Tzvi Gal-Chen's meteorological work to guide him in his search for his wife. Leo's quest takes him through Buenos Aires and Patagonia, and as he becomes increasingly delusional and erratic, Galchen adeptly reveals the actual situation to readers, including Rema's anguish and anger at her husband. Leo's devotion to the "real" Rema is heartbreaking and maddening; he cannot see that the woman he seeks has been with him all along. Don't be surprised if this gives you a Crying of Lot 49 nostalgia hit.
Inside The Mind of Capgras Delusion
This is a very twisty read. The story behaves almost like a mystery novel. One feels empathy for the two main characters. The thoughts of Leo sometimes seem hard to follow, but a quick review of the facts set you back on track. It's interesting to see a post-modern utilize delusional misidentification syndrome, it seems so at home in the style that finds identity by communicating about the lack or misplacement of identity.
This was the most banal descent into madness I could imagine. The only surprise was how persistently a march of boredom could be sustained. It's only saving graces was its relative brevity.