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By: Chris Bohjalian
Publication Date: 1/10/2017
My Rating: 3 Stars
Master storyteller, Chris Bohjalian returns following The Guest Room landing on my Top Books of 2016 with an intriguing tale of the mysterious world of parasomnia and dark family secrets. Recommend reading the novella, The Premonition, a prequel to THE SLEEPWALKER.
“I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps in me.” – Sylvia Plath
Set in Vermont, a young mother sleepwalks and performs complex behaviors. Now she has gone missing. Annalee is a sleepwalker. A condition, or a state, a sleep behavior somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness
Her daughter Lianna was twenty-one and her sister, Paige was twelve. The husband and father, Warren (English Professor) at the elite New England college--was away on business. They have not recovered.
Annalee embarrassed her husband. They both felt shame, but for different reasons. He because of what people saw and she because of what she could not control. The parents often fought. Annalee was smart and beautiful. She battled depression and took antidepressants.
“They tell you there is no connection between sleepwalking and dreams. Perhaps. After all, you can remember your dreams."
The girls were years apart and there had been five miscarriages between the two births. Seven years later the sleepwalking began. Lianna was in high school and Paige in the second grade.
When the mother was sleepwalking, it seemed she was oblivious, even to the weather, and no recollection of the events the follow day.
"You climb out of bed. You search out a stranger who will satisfy the craving. With any luck, you will wake before you find one. But not always."
The events only occurred when the father was out of town—including the night when she vanished once and for all. It was why the police almost instantly discarded him as a suspect. He had been at a poetry conference in Iowa City.
Both the girls are feeling guilty since neither woke up that night. No body had been found.
“It’s only when the dreams lead you from your bed; from sleep, that the amusements become dangerous.
The next morning, the patient is amnestic. They remember nothing or next to nothing or presumes it was merely a dream.
Detective Gavin Rikert with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Waterbury is on the case. Lilanna is sure her mother did not kill herself and she was not having an affair.
An accident? Did she drown? They found a scrap of nightgown; it was by the river. A concussion. They hoped she was not in the water. The Detective and the mom had attended the same sleep center. He mentioned they had not seen one another for the last several years. Lianna thinks he knows more than he is saying.
The author sprinkles first person notes in italics between chapters. The reader is unsure who is speaking-adding to the mystery.
The novel unfolds surrounding the fallout emotions of the disappearance of Annalee. Warren throws himself in work and drinking; whereas Lianna takes drugs to dull the pain, and Paige swims the river in search of the mother. Everyone handles the guilt and grief in different ways.
People go to the extremes when sleepwalking. From having sex, commit crimes, cook, drive, and drown. It also runs in the family. The ongoing mystery of what really happened to Annalee- to the final conclusion.
If you have read any of Bohjalian’s previous books, you come to expect he tackles highly charged emotional topics with informative and well-researched compelling information. Twisty, slow-burning, and absorbing.
“The earth is as rich with magic as it is with horror and sadness.”
While the subject was fascinating, I will admit this was not my favorite of his books. Felt, it was missing the intensity, suspense, and literary flair of his previous books. Not sure I enjoyed it enough, to read "book two" in the series.
In addition to the reading copy, I also purchased the audiobook, and while I enjoy Cady McClain, the other performer Grace Experience had the most irritating voice. Later discovered Grace is Chris's daughter (sorry); however, a narrator will make or break a book.
There are six common parasomnias that afflict sleepers:
* Sleepwalking. More commonly seen in children, sleepwalking (also called somnambulism) affects about 4 percent of American adults
* REM sleep behavior disorder
* Night terrors
* Nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder
* Teeth grinding
A special thank you to Doubleday and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.