49 pages 1 hour read

Richard Powers


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2021

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Part 1, Pages 1-47Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1, Pages 1-12 Summary

Theo Byrne, an astrobiologist, is with his nine-year-old son, Robin, searching the night sky through a telescope on the deck behind their rented cabin in one of the “last patches of darkness in the eastern U.S.” (6). Robin speculates about the existence of extraterrestrial life, a cause that occupies Theo’s life’s work. Robin’s hair reminds Theo of Alyssa, his deceased wife and Robin’s mother. Robin quizzes Theo about the search for aliens, and Theo is happy that his son shares his passion. He has taken Robin out of school for the week after some trouble with his classmates; Robin has Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At Robin’s request, they sleep outside beneath the stars.

Theo thinks about how he slowly came to terms with his son’s medical diagnoses. For years, he tried to find the correct diagnosis for Robin’s strange behavior. After many suggestions and prescriptions for medicine, Theo found nothing that worked. Eventually, he accepted Robin for who he is.

Theo and Robin take a road trip. As they drive, Robin calls out the names of everything he sees through the window. They visit a museum, an aquarium, and the sky platform and then return to their cabin.