This book asks a lot of complicated questions about love. Is it possible for your beloved to become a different person? Would you notice? If you love this new person less, wouldn't it be a relief (if you had the mental, say, flexibility) to decide that your beloved has been stolen and replaced by a doppelganger? Yes, the narrator of this novel definitely has a psychological disorder, but his searching and questioning has relevance for anyone who has ever wondered who they've really fallen in love with. Instead of dealing with the more quotidian problem of "infinitesimal dimunitions of regard,"
, Leo deals with a different set of questions. Where is Rema? Who is the impostress and what are her aims? What's the difference between an original and a copy? It's a strange question when it comes to love, and reminds me of Hitchcock's "Vertigo" with the same sense of melancholy and distortion (and "ick" since you're applying the question to a person).
Galchen plays a lot of tricks, doubling a lot of characters and incidents, at least in the narrator's mind, and some readers might find that a bit tedious. Also, following a narrator whose view of reality differs significantly from the "consensus view of reality" can be exhausting, especially since Leo's search can seem aimless and wandering even to him, full of dead ends and false starts. But if you have the patience for it, the novel can be very rewarding. I look forward to reading her next book!
As an aside, I've noticed a lot of books in the past few years have had unreliable narrators with a panoply of disorders. Narrators with Touretts in _Motherless Brooklyn_, and autism in _Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime_ come to mind. Is the plain old unreliable narrator device not enough anymore? Why does it have to be heightened by a medical condition? Or are we just all so over-diagnosed these days?
And, as if this review isn't long enough, I noticed on the way to work this morning, as I was listening to The Beatles' "Rubber Soul," that this book (except maybe the meteorological aspect) can be summed up by their song "I"m Looking Through You." Is it possible that the plot or themes of every book I read has already been expressed by a Beatles song? Hmmm...a matter for further thought.