Random House, January 2014; 200 pages
This brilliant new novel . . . takes us on a radical trip into the mind of a man who, more than once in his life, has been the inadvertent agent of disaster.
Speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, Andrew is . . . telling the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that have led him to this place and point in time. And as he confesses, peeling back the layers of his strange story, we are led to question what we know about truth and memory, brain and mind, personality and fate, about one another and ourselves.
What a surprise this was! It took me a while to get hooked into Doctorow's new novel; but after beginning and stopping a couple of times (not sure what the problem was), I started fresh and finished it in one sitting. And really enjoyed it! It doesn't quite come up to the level of Ragtime or Doctorow's brilliant Homer and Langley which I loved a few years ago, but it's still a fine read.
I know the publisher's description (above) doesn't reveal much of the actual plot of the book. And it's a very hard book to describe. Basically, it's the story of Andrew, a scientist and academic whose life has begun to unravel. The story is narrated by Andrew (or by Andrew's brain), and we learn early on that he's one of the most unreliable narrators in literature. Andrew isn't an easy character to love or figure out, but he tells a fascinating tale. Does he tell the truth? Can we know that? Should we care? I have many questions, and I like it when a book leaves me wanting to know more. Definitely a book I'd recommend.
I was provided an advance reader edition of this book, free of charge, from the publisher, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program. This review refers to that edition. No other compensation was received, and the opinions expressed here are all my own.