|I genuinely liked the writing in this novel a lot, and some of the thinking that went into it. It goes off in an unexpected direction about a third the way through that becomes the major source of plot for the novel, but I ended up thinking it was a lot less successful than the direction the novel seemed to be taking initially.
We begin in Chicago where a burnt out writer and editor is beginning an adjunct job with a local small college teaching creative nonfiction. His class is an eclectic mix of artists who are blown away by the both the creative output of their classmate, a Berber woman from Algeria, who writes beautifully and joyfully about her wartorn homeland. Perplexed by this combination, our teacher refers her to the school counselor and suggests she might have a genetic condition (uncontrolled joy) and the novel goes from there as she becomes a viral sensation.
I wish it had stayed small, and not dived into the rare genetic condition territory. For one, it was less interesting (though I think it still did plenty of interesting things) and strays way too close to the plotting of the previous Richard Powers novel The Echo Maker.