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A Novel


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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Overstory, an emotionally charged novel inspired by the myth of Orpheus.

"Bravo, Richard Powers, for hitting so many high notes with Orfeo and contributing to the fraction of books that really matter." —Heller McAlpin, NPR

In Orfeo, composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police on his doorstep. His home microbiology lab—the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to find music in surprising patterns—has aroused the suspicions of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid, Els turns fugitive and hatches a plan to transform this disastrous collision with the security state into an unforgettable work of art that will reawaken its audience to the sounds all around it.


“Powers is prodigiously talented…He writes lyrical prose, has a seductive sense of wonder and is an acute observer of social life…I [was] unable to resist the emotional pull of Orfeo.” — Jim Holt, New York Times Book Review

“Powers proves, once again, that he’s a master of the novel with Orfeo, an engrossing and expansive read that is just as much a profile of a creative, obsessive man as it is an escape narrative.” — Elizabeth Sile, Esquire

Orfeo is that rare novel truly deserving of the label 'lyrical.'…Powers offers a profound story whose delights are many and lasting.” — Harvey Freedenberg, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Orfeo is a first-class American road novel.” — Scott Korb, Slate

Orfeo benefits from the deep sympathy Powers seems to feel for the brilliant and troubled protagonist he has created…[It] establishes beyond any doubt that the novel is very much alive.” — Troy Jollimore, Chicago Tribune

“Magnificent and moving.” — David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“Extraordinary…his evocations of music, let alone lost love, simply soar off the page…Once again, Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our finest novelists.” — Dan Cryer, Newsday

“Of novelists in Powers’s generation with whom he is often compared—Franzen, Vollmann, Wallace—none equals Powers’s combination of consistent production, intellectual range, formal ingenuity, and emotional effect.” — Tom LeClair, Christian Science Monitor

“Part of the fun of reading [Powers] is to see how he wriggles out of his own snares. But a greater thrill is to join with him in untangling the most urgent and confounding puzzles of our age.” — Nathaniel Rich, New York Review of Books

“For sheer bravado in constructing sentences, few authors of contemporary fiction can surpass Powers…One of his finest yet.” — Ted Gioia, San Francisco Chronicle

“Powers’ writing is complex and heady without being headachy, and his synesthetic descriptions of finding melodies in the mundane are full of their own kind of music.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Biology and music, past and present, come together in a clever, explosive resolution.” — Adam Kirsch, Boston Globe

“One long express-train ride to the gorgeous. And the scenery is as sublime as ever.” — Laura Miller, Salon


Winner — Northern California Book Award, 2015

Longlisted — Booker Prize, 2014

Longlisted — ALA Carnegie Medal, 2015

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