Richard Powers' Overstory is one of my favorite novels: It weaves together multiple storylines like intertwined branches, the overarching theme being humanity's mistreatment of the earth.
So when Bewilderment was announced, I had to pre-order. There are a lot of similarities: in this new title, a scientist must come to terms with being a single dad to Robin, who, though young, is already overwhelmed and anxious about the state of the environment. Whereas other kids fret over homework or crushes, climate change, endangered species, and oil spills are what keep Robin up at night.
The book swings back and forth between a central question: Is Robin's obsession with nature unhealthy? Or is the rest of humanity to blame, carrying on like everything's okay?
The answer isn't a straight-forward B. Though Robin's focus is the more accurate one, it prevents him from living in the present. It also begs the question: Is the collective anxiety of younger generations due to too much transparency? Is shielding sometimes the right thing to do, or does harsh reality need to be presented from the getgo?
I don't think Powers gives a clear answer, but grappling with these issues is important for anyone who considers having children, thinks of the future, or struggles with just how much they're supposed to care.
Give it a read.