Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
2008 Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Let's be honest. Sometimes the book trailer is much better than the book. A lot better. This is one of those times. Its disappointing. The book trailer, look a good movie trailer,leads you to believe in the book, to believe in the promise of the book. It makes you look forward to sitting in your favorite chair with your cup of tea and devouring page after page. But that isn't what happens. Instead, you force yourself to finish each sentence, promising yourself that you are closer and closer to the end. ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES was a disappointment that completely failed to fall anywhere near where the trailer took the viewer.
To be fair to myself I did not go into this book blind. I had the book trailer, which was beautiful and reputable book reviews. The book jacket reads:
When Dr. Leo Liebenstein’s wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her—or almost exactly like her—and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love.
With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey—who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather—Leo attempts to unravel the mystery of the spousal switch. His investigation leads him to the enigmatic guidance of the meteorologist Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, the secret workings of the Royal Academy of Meteorology in their cosmic conflict with the 49 Quantum Fathers, and the unwelcome conviction that somehow he—or maybe his wife, or maybe even Harvey—lies at the center of all these unfathomables. From the streets of New
York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo’s erratic quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.
Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. With tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen investigates the moment of crisis when you suddenly realize that the reality you insist upon is no longer one you can accept, and the person you love has become merely the
person you live with. This highly inventive debut explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.
Doesn't that sound exciting and new? I thought so. and this book was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Salon.com Top Ten Book of the Year, a Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Best Book of the Year and a Slate Best Book of the Year.
I don't know. This book is completely unimpressive.
I cant narrow down one thing I dislike most about ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES. I don't know if it is the characters. The neurotic, almost psychotic husband was not a good choice for a narrator. The wife or simulcrum seems like a caricature of a woman. She behaves in ways that seem comical rather than loving and concerned. There is the dead/ not dead mentor who adds little to the story other than to add to the confusion. AND the Royal Academy of Meteorology. I don't know what to say about them. Were they necessary? Not to me.
The absolute worst part of the book were the meteorological papers that the narrator (Leo) and Harvey (Leo's psych patient) use to get messages from Dr. Gal-Chen. They were weighty, lengthy and added nothing to the furtherment of the story. I understand that they were supposed to demonstrate the mental lengths that Leo was willing to go to to find his wife and demonstrate the deterioration of his mind but they seemed out of place in the action that the novel tried to portray.
What I really did enjoy about ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES was the love story. Galchen has beautiful language and portrays Leo and Rema's love realistically and with the proper amount of emotion. Leo running from the 'imposter' wife is sad but beautiful at the same time. He loves his wife so much he is willing to travel around the world to find her but has lost so much of the love he had for her that he doesn't realize when she is standing before him. This book captured well what happens when love fades or changes and the lovers do not change with it.
I would not recommend this book to anyone. There was nothing about it i enjoyed. However, based on the reviews that I found plenty of others did so enjoy it at your own peril.