koralleen (koralleen) wrote,

SRP: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers and Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee

I read these two in rapid succession and they were similar in several ways, so I'll talk about both here.

Each story begins with an accident. In The Echo Maker, a single-car accident puts Mark Schluter in a hospital, where his sister Karin travels to be with him. When he recovers enough to recognize her, he is convinced that she is an imposter pretending to be his sister. There's a pretty large cast of characters as Mark's convalescence draws Karin reluctantly back to her hometown and she calls in an Oliver Sacks-alike doctor/writer to recommend a remedy. Slow Man starts with the bike accident that claims Paul Rayment's leg. He is a self-sufficient man who values his privacy and his condition requires that he re-evaluate his ideas about independence.

Besides the superficial similarity of initial plot device, both books are written by excellent writers. They're a pleasure to read because the language is practically perfect page after page. And each book has its big, fat, horrible thing.

For Powers, it's his characters. Maybe he made them just unrecognizable enough as real people to keep a reader confused? Like Mark is confused? It's off-putting, I tell you. And then Coetzee does something so freakin' weird in the middle of his book that I shall say no more than this: I gasped aloud (I was alone in a laundry room at the time, thank goodness) and read the next few pages with my mouth hanging open. Then for the rest of the book I was constantly wondering what Coetzee was doing. I finished the book and still I wonder!

I hope I haven't scared anyone away from either book; they each tell an engaging story--beautifully--while making interesting connections. They're excellent novels and it was kind of fun the way I ran into both of them at the same time.

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