Andrew's Brain Summary & Study Guide

E.L. Doctorow
This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Andrew's Brain.
This section contains 511 words
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Andrew's Brain Summary & Study Guide Description

Andrew's Brain Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Andrew's Brain by E.L. Doctorow.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Doctorow, E.L. Andrew’s Brain. New York: Random House, 2014.

The novel’s frame narrative is that the protagonist, a cognitive scientist named Andrew, is talking about his life to a psychotherapist. Andrew begins by recounting the death of his first child. He and his wife Martha had a child that died as an infant after being prescribed the wrong medication. Andrew and Martha soon divorced. Later, Andrew had a child with a woman named Briony. After Briony suddenly died, Andrew had an emotional breakdown and gave the child to Martha, as he felt that he was unable to take care of it.

Andrew then talks about when he first met Briony. Following his divorce from Martha, he moved to Utah and began teaching at a state college there. Briony was a student in one of his classes. She was kind and compassionate, ad a romance soon sparked between them. Eventually, Andrew and Briony traveled to California to meet Briony’s parents. Although Briony was of average height, her parents both had dwarfism. Briony’s parents—Bill and Betty—had made their living as performers but had retired. Andrew soon developed a positive rapport with both Bill and Betty.

Andrew then talks about recent time in which he tried to visit Willa, the daughter that he had given away to Martha. When Andrew arrived at Martha’s home in New Rochelle, New York, he found only Martha’s husband in an alcoholic stupor. It became clear that Martha had left her husband and had taken Willa, without saying where she was going.

After Briony graduated from college, she and Andrew moved to New York to live together. Briony gave birth to their daughter, Willa. Not long after, Briony died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Andrew had an emotional breakdown due to grief, and he gave Willa away to Martha. Andrew eventually moved to Washington, D.C., where he found a job as a science teacher at a public high school. One day, president George W. Bush visited the school for a publicity event, and he recognized Andrew since they had been roommates at Yale University. Bush offered Andrew a job doing neurological research in the White House. Andrew accepted, although somewhat reluctantly, for he disagreed with Bush’s politics.

Andrew talks about his and Bush’s time together at Yale. Andrew was a diligent student, while Bush focused much more on socializing than on studying. At the White House, it quickly became apparent to Andrew that there was tension between Bush’s advisors and Bush. Bush and his advisors all seemed to be driven by a desire for power rather than a desire to help others. One day, Andrew impulsively did a handstand in the Oval Office as a type of protest, and he was promptly arrested and jailed indefinitely without trial. The novel ends with Andrew still in jail. Martha and her husband have reconciled, and Andrew transfers legal guardianship of Willa to them.

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