Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction. On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His older sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman--who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister—is really an imposter.
The Echo Maker is not an elegy for How We Used to Live or a salute to Coming to Grips, but a quiet exploration of how we survive, day to day ... The faith we extend to writers like Weber is, I think, the same kind of faith we put in our best fiction writers. We expect — and need — them to tell us of our world, how things work, how against all odds we make it through. With The Echo Maker, Richard Powers vindicates this faith, employing his trademark facility with all manner of esoteric discourse, but never letting it overcome the essential human truth of his characters ... I haven’t mentioned the expert plot mechanics yet, Powers’s array of tiny enigmas and red herrings, all perfectly paced ... As the features of life after 9/11 come into focus, Powers accomplishes something magnificent, no facile conflation of personal catastrophe with national calamity, but a lovely essay on perseverance in all its forms.
The Echo Maker is probably the best Powers novel so far. I say 'probably,' because it’s not possible for Powers to write an uninteresting book, and after that it’s a matter of taste. Trying to describe it is a bit like four blind men trying to describe an elephant—which end do you start at, with something so large and multi-limbed? ... The Echo Maker does not initially offer much solace. But it does at length offer some. There’s grace of a sort to be had, in the country of surprise. There’s forgiveness to be at least tried out. There are amends to be made ... The Echo Maker is a grand novel—grand in its reach, grand in its themes, grand in its patterning. That it might sometimes stray over the line into the grandiose is perhaps unavoidable: Powers is not a painter of miniatures. Of the two extremes of American mannerist style, the minimalist or Shaker chair (Dickinson, Hemingway, Carver) and the maximalist or Gilded Age (Whitman, James, Jonathan Safran Foer), Powers inclines toward the latter. He gets his effects by repetition, by a Goldberg Variation–like elaboration of motifs, by cranking up the volume and pulling out all the stops. It all adds up to one enormous oratorio-like brain episode. You stagger out of Powers’s novel happy to find yourself, like Scrooge the morning after, grasping your own bedpost, saying 'There’s no place like home,' and hoping you still have a chance to set things right.
...an exhilarating narrative feat. The ease with which the author controls his frequently complex material is sometimes as thrilling to watch as the unfolding of the story itself ... This complicated story is masterfully controlled; the pace never slackens; the writing remains direct and clear ... By the end of the novel, the narrative stakes have been raised very high, yet on the three main questions, Powers delivers handsomely: Mysteries are resolved, answers satisfactorily given. For this concentration on plot, however, there remains a price to be paid in thematic richness. It is futile to complain that the riddle of human consciousness is not fully explained; Powers illuminates it as far as current science permits and dramatizes his findings with a novelist's concern for character. Yet the resolution of the Capgras issue, realistic though it is, does not pull its weight emotionally, and the end of the mystery-note story does not reverberate as much as it might.This certainly should not dim one's admiration for Powers's boldness. He is a formidable talent, and this is a lucid, fiercely entertaining novel—which, incidentally, with the inevitable loss of intellectual richness, would make a terrific movie.