Karin Schluter receives the call no one wants to receive: her only brother Mark has been in a serious car accident and is hospitalized. Karin is told no more until she travels to her old hometown and the hospital. Shortly after her arrival, when she is allowed into Mark’s room, a mysterious note lies at Mark’s bedside and he is in a coma. So begins Richard Powers’ novel The Echo Maker, an interesting medical mystery as well as a mystery about whom exactly Mark is and what he was doing just prior to the accident. What makes the story so unusual is that Mark believes Karin is not his sister, but an imposter. He also believes the same people who switched Karin’s switched his dog. Mark is diagnosised with Capgras syndrome. When neurologist Dr. Gerald Weber answers Karin’s letter detailing Mark’s case he is intrigued and arrives in Nebraska to discuss mark’s case. Mark begs him to find his sister. Mark has no recall of the accident. He also suspects one of his friends, name, might not be who he says he is either. With both parents dead, Karin is at a loss as to how to cope with the situation.Dr. Weber meets with Mark and Karin, and also with Barbra Gillespie, whom he finds very familiar. Barbara is mysterious on her own. She is very knowledgeable about Weber’s work, but devise being anything more than the nurse’s aide she is working as. Dealing with Mark’s syndrome and Karin’s anxiety and Barbara’s presence send Weber home after a few weeks.
This situation, coupled with some bad reviews on his books, turn Weber to self doubt. Mark’s consistent insistence that she is not who she really is, his sister, make Karin begin to doubt herself and everything about her life.In doing some research on the internet, Weber finds a reference to a new drug, Olanzapine, which may help Mark out of his Capgras and other symptoms that have manifested. Karin struggles with whether to have Mark start taking the drug, but finally agrees. Mark telephones her in the middle of the night after starting the drug, saying he has just realized what happened to him in the accident: he died and no one realized it! Later, he takes an overdose of the medication, figuring what’s the difference, he’s already dead. When the hospital brings him back, the only person he will speak with is Weber, who must make the trip back to Nebraska, much to his wife’s dismay. Also in the mix are Daniel Riegel, Mark old friend and Karin’s new love, and the Crane Refuge, where Daniel works and he eventually gets Karin a job there so she can remain close to Mark.The mystery surrounding Mark’s accident and Barbara’s identity should hold the reader’s interest.