The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian– 304 pages
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 stop by the Ahlbergs’ 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?
My Review: 4 stars
The Sleepwalker takes on the mystifying subject of sleepwalking and the fallout that happens when a sleepwalker goes missing. The only experience I’ve had with sleepwalking happened when we traveled with another family to a resort in Mexico. Their young son, with whom they had adjoining rooms, left the hotel room and was wandering down to the beach when a hotel employee found him. They woke him up and in his terror of being outside in the middle of the night, told them his last name. The worker that spotted him had remarkable timing, as the outcome could’ve been completely horrific if he’d found him even a few minutes later. I’ve read a few other books with sleepwalking as a part of the plot, but never as a mystery. This title definitely intrigued me.
In this book, the POV comes from the daughter of the sleepwalker. It’s an interesting choice for Bohjalian to make because of her limited knowledge, however it works well as she becomes part mother figure and part investigator. The only other voice we hear from is from an anonymous POV at the start of each chapter. The reader doesn’t know who is journaling these snippets and won’t know until it becomes apparent at the end of the book.
Even though there are a lot of moving parts in this novle, the first third read slowly for me. Once it picked up it kept me hooked until the end. Learning that anything you do while awake can happen during somnambulism was really interesting. Apparently it was remarkable for the author as well, as this book started as a book about dreams. It was after Bohjalian’s research with a local sleep doctor and learning more about somnambulism that his idea for the book changed. Adding sex sleep to the mix really shocked me. There were a few incomplete threads for me that I wish had closure such as the miscarriages and the potential affair(s).
In general, the author’s books have been hit or miss for me. Some I loved (Skeletons at The Feast, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room) and others not so much. I don’t mind reading any of them though. His topics always vary and he really stretches himself as an author. I appreciate that as a reader.
Quotes I liked:
Words are just words. Some are better than others, but only because they are better at explaining what you mean.”
-“I hate platitudes. I really do. But sometimes I believe we would all be better off if we always treated people like this was the last time we were ever going to see them.”