Sunday, December 28, 2014

Andrew's Brain; E.L. Doctorow

Andrew's Brain; E.L. Doctorow
Random House - 2014
Andrew's Brain is a short, strange yet compelling story.  From the very beginning of the story the reader gets the impression that Andrew, who was some sort of a cognitive scientist, is an often depressed, walking disaster. From a very early age, his life has been a series of missteps that have resulted in some terrible consequences for him and others. As a child sledding, he caused a car to swerve to avoid him and caused the death of the driver. His first wife is dead, he over medicated his infant daughter causing her death, broke a friends jaw, lost his teaching job and more.   

The story begins with Andrew talking with a psychiatrist about all of the disasters that have occurred in his life.  It almost felt like a mandatory or involuntary reporting, but why it's happening is not revealed. The novel is told in both the first and third person, and Andrew makes for a sympathetic narrator.  As the story progresses (the entire novel is just over 200 pages), and the conversations between Andrew and his doctor continue, it becomes clear that Andrew is most likely an unreliable narrator.

The final section of the book sort of spoiled my overall enjoyment a bit. The story turns to somewhat of a political satire with George W Bush and his team (although the president isn't named) taking the brunt of the satirical punches, and Andrew talking about his college days with the president.
Andrew was a man of many faces depending on circumstance. Andrew's Brain was a story that makes you question what we know about truth and memory, and how well we really know ourselves for that matter.
I started listening to the audio book which was read by the 83 year-old author, and that did not work well for me, especially since Andrew was a middle-aged man.  I felt that the print version was a better choice .

3.5/5 stars
(audio and arc)

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