Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Sleepwalker - Chris Bohjalian

Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room comes a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire--the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night. 

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge.

The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home.

As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?

Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers.
 

My Review: I may be totally off-base in this, but to me, Chris Bohjalian is the M. Knight Shyamalan of the book world. There always has to be some twist. The movie or book can be judged by the shockingness of the twist and how surprised you were at the end. If you see it coming, it's not great. If you don't, it's a lot of fun.

The first book I read of Bohjalian's was Midwives. I was shocked by this book. The ending totally floored me and I loved it. I remember being so surprised and so caught up in it. It was unlike anything I'd ever read and I thought the twist at the end was super cool. That book was published in 1997. That is 20 (!!!) years ago. I don't know about you, but I've read a few books between now and then. Also, I'm a little...er...older. And let's hope a little more mature and well-read. When that book first came out (which is not when I read it, that would not come for a couple more years) I was but a wee lass still in high school. Some of you probably weren't even born then. I'm old. By the time I read it I was probably in college (I can't imagine my high school self reading it) and now, 20 years later reading The Sleepwalker I can only assume that my reading has matured a bit. These are not the only two books of Bohjalian's I've read, but I have the same feeling about the two of them. The other few I've read did not feel the same way to me. So now my older self is going to compare what I feel about The Sleepwalker to what I remember feeling about Midwives.

First off, Bohjalian's writing was not as smooth as I remembered. I wouldn't say that he is an extremely gifted literary author. His writing is fine, it's usually not distracting, but every once in awhile it would just be a little rough and not as flawless as I would have hoped. To me, this puts it in the normal genre of crime/mystery/thriller. Most of those authors are pretty decent, but it is rare for one to be a beautiful writer in this pretty saturated genre.

Secondly, the story. The story was interesting enough, and I especially enjoyed learning a little something about sleepwalking while reading it. It took a turn I didn't love, though, and I don't want to reveal that in this review as I think that's part of his schtick for this book. I just thought it was kind of weird and incongruent, especially when the big reveal comes.

Now--the surprise. Well, I thought it was a pretty good surprise. It wasn't utterly shocking or anything, and my mind wasn't blown, but I did leaf back through the book to check out a few things and re-read a few parts that I might have overlooked before. It was a decent surprise. It wasn't out of nowhere but it wasn't blatantly obviously either. I'm trying to say a lot without saying much. 

Overall I thought this book was a fun read. Was it remarkable? No. Was it fast and fun? Certainly. It didn't take me long to whip through it and it was interesting enough with a fun premise that it kept me excited to read on. As mentioned, the writing was a little clunky, which is not something I expected from an author as famous and prolific as this one, but it is what it is. There are certainly much worse authors with a lot more fame. [Insert Twilight jab here].

Since I haven't read a lot of Bohjalian's work--and I know he has a pretty big following--I can only compare it to the few I've read. I liked it better than The Sandcastle Girls but not as well as Midwives. This would be a fun vacation read with just the right amount of excitement to keep you going but not a heavy commitment that requires a lot from the reader.

My Rating: 3 stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and later on some racy content. 

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