Book Review: “Andrew’s Brain” by E. L. Doctorow

4 Stars

Andrew is a cognitive scientist and academic with a lifelong history of unintentional destruction. The narrative is a conversation between Andrew and — someone. He is — somewhere. At a time that is at —- some point in the future, after the events he relates. He talks about the death of his first child, the courtship then death of his second wife, and other milestones of his life.

I like this book. I’ve vacillated between 3 stars or 4 stars, and am opting higher because I can feel that this book will settle well over time. It took me a long time to care about Andrew, the main character. Caring about the characters is essential for me, and the whole first half of the book I didn’t. Yet I kept going along for the ride because Doctorow’s writing is such a pleasure. Every page has subtly wonderful insights, perspective, turns of phrase, without ever getting flashy for its own sake.

About the time I developed sympathy for Andrew (and not coincidentally) the story takes a sharp left turn. WTF!?! What the hell is this book really about? Hmmm… Okay. You’ve still got my attention…

This book managed to get me to care about events and people I had sworn to think about, nevermore. It’s not perfect and it’s probably not Doctorow’s best work (this is my first time reading him so I can’t say for sure). But it is worth a read.

Note: I read an advance copy from Librarything in exchange for an honest review. Random House will publish this in Jan 2014.