CBR14 BINGO: Minds Square
(all about the mind, memories and raising a neuroatypical child)
Powers is on the list of writers whose grocery lists I would read. Few can write the kind of prose this man can about the natural world. Always beautiful, unexpected, and poignant, his books are often about how we can’t seem to help ourselves from destroying the world around us. Despite that, he somehow still manages to drape a warm fuzzy blanket around our shoulders at the same time. There is a lot of sadness but it is always threaded with a little hope.
After the death of his wife, Aly, astrobiologist, Theo, is left to care for his son Robin. Robin is an extremely intelligent neuroatypical kid prone to frustrating bouts of anger that get him into trouble at school. Desperate to keep Robin off of the medication that his school insists he needs before he can return, Theo takes Robin camping. Their forays into nature slow down the world for Robin and give him and his father time to remember Aly. These are brief respites that quickly unravel when Robin goes back to school.
Theo eventually turns to his wife’s friend who is running a study that may help Robin to learn how to manage his emotions. His astonishing progress is threatened when the political landscape becomes more and more conservative and less inclined to fund the research.
Powers paints a discomfortingly dystopian world that is both otherworldly and prescient. Kind of how I feel while watching Handmaid’s Tale. I will admit that I can get glassy eyed when Powers waxes all science-y. It can quickly get over my non-science-y accepting brain, but I take what I can understand and move on.
It was weird to read Power’s book that was well under his 800-page usual, but the smallness of it seems deliberate. It’s a brief story about a father and son’s journey to understand each other and the world around them. No matter how much we love someone and they love us in return, there is still an entire world inside them that we may never know or understand. Powers examines the rollercoaster ride of childhood and parenthood through the lens of a father who studies the universe and a boy whose brain can encompass it.