Atmopheric Disturbances

Rivka Galchen

I probably read more reviews of this book before starting it than I should have, as the reactions were mixed and some went into too much depth, so at times I was expecting something a little different. But ultimately I enjoyed this story of a middle-aged psychiatrist who believes that his wife has been replaced by an imposter and goes on intercontinental hunt for her. While it might seem like a straight-up, first person narration, I do think some suspension of reality is necessary to appreciate it.

The one response worth reading beforehand is Kat’s at No Good for Me, as I think she summed up well what to expect, especially this part:

This is a curious book in that it’s about intimacy, but not really about “relationships” as we know them in the modern sense — in fact, one can argue that Leo seems to have spent much of his relationship with Rema prior to her “disappearance” not quite relating to her or even understanding her much. The story’s heart is really about the idea of the beloved - about having the biggest source of mystery in your life be in the closest proximity to you, about realizing the person you love most is a foreign land, with a language, history and customs that are nothing like your own. No matter how far you travel, you’ll never quite penetrate into its inner workings or secrets or mysteries. That Leo remains forever in search of Rema to the end breaks your heart in so many ways because it’s both a testament to how much he loves her but also a mirror of the fear that we can never truly be close to those flames that we flutter closest towards.

There is apparently a rare syndrome that can cause this imposter delusion, but I think reading this solely as a narrative exploration of a condition is kind of a boring way to approach the story. But as the book really doesn’t hint at this and most people aren’t aware of this condition, it may be helpful to know that beforehand.