by Rivka Galchen
Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife. This woman casually closed the door behind her. In an oversized pale blue purse—Rema’s purse—she was carrying a russet puppy. I did not know the puppy. And the real Rema, she doesn’t greet dogs on the sidewalk, she doesn’t like dogs at all. The hay feverishly fresh scent of Rema’s shampoo was filling the air and through that brashness I squinted at this woman, and at that small dog, acknowledging to myself only that something was extraordinarily wrong.
This novel is reminiscent of Pynchon, Borges, Murakami, with a little bit of Cervantes for good measure. It is an unsettling first novel, but often funny, post modern masterpiece. What is strongest in the plots structure is the twists and turns that pull you in as a reader and have you coming back for more. There were times that I put the book down and swore I would never return, but the need to know what happens to the tragicomic hero was enough to keep me in the game. Not an easy read, slightly high brow and often painful to put down.
When Dr. Leo Liebenstein's wife disappears, she leaves behind a single confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her. A simulacrum. But Leo is not fooled, and he knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the real Rema is alive and in hiding, he embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim her. With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey--who believes himself to be a secret agent able to control the weather--his investigation leads him from the streets of New York City to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, in search of the woman he loves. Atmospheric Disturbances is a "witty, tender, and conceptually dazzling" (Booklist) novel about the mysterious nature of human relationships.
Rivka Galchen grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, the child of Israeli immigrants. She attended Princeton and went on to get her MD at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. During that time she spent a year in South America, working for a Hopkins' public health researcher, mostly on projects based in Lima's shantytowns and in the villages around the jungle city of Iquitos. She has received multiple fellowships through Columbia's MFA program. Rivka Galchen received her MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, having spent a year in South America working on public health issues. Her fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in "The Believer", "Harper's", "The New Yorker", "Scientific American", and "The New York Times".