Genre: Contemporary

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Family Tragedy and Its Effects in The Sleepwalker

January 6, 2017 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Family Tragedy and Its Effects in The SleepwalkerThe Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Published by Doubleday Books on January 10th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Source: complimentary review copy
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This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

four-stars

Chris Bohjalian is one of those authors I purchase immediately. I’ve yet to read anything formulaic or contrived that he’s written. From parasomnia and human trafficking to World War II and midwives, Bohjalian’s breadth of topics and genres are wide and far-reaching.

In his latest, The Sleepwalker, Annalee Ahlberg disappears while her husband is out of town. Annalee is home alone with her two daughters, Lianna, a senior in college and Paige, a sophmore in high school.   Because Annalee suffers from parasomnia, the worst is feared.

Four years prior, Lianna found her mother on the precipice of a bridge and had to guide her home. Since that incident, Warren has not traveled overnight for work. Annalee has taken medication to help reduce the symptoms. While Lianna has remained her mother’s vigilant watcher.

The Sleepwalker is horrifying in a real-world aspect. My youngest daughter had a habit of sleepwalking until middle school. My mom says I was the same way when I was growing up. We both continue to have long detailed conversations in our sleep. But parasomnia? It is an entirely different level of sleep disturbance.

The first few chapters of The Sleepwalker focuses on the search for Annalee and the family’s response to her disappearance. The middle tended to drag in places, and I found myself skimming paragraphs. Though I wonder if that wasn’t deliberate? I imagine during a tragic disappearance the days drag, life moves slowly and nothing seems to happen. The ending was completely unexpected.

I finished The Sleepwalker a couple of weeks ago and still find myself haunted by the story. The Ahlberg family fractures as a result of Annalee’s disappearance. And isn’t that true-to-life? Families are either made stronger in tragedy or torn apart. What makes or breaks the unit? And that is the underlying question – could your family survive a tragedy? Recommended.

Meet the Author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

For further reading, try the short story prequel The Premonition

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

 

 

four-stars

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Racism and White Privilege in Small Great Things

November 1, 2016 Book Review, reviews 12

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Racism and White Privilege in Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books on October 11th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: complimentary review copy
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You say you don’t see color…but that’s all you see. You’re so hyperaware of it, and of trying to look like you aren’t prejudiced, you can’t even understand that when you say race doesn’t matter all I hear is you dismissing what I’ve felt, what I’ve lived, what it’s like to be put down because of the color of my skin.

Jodi Picoult never fails to deliver a novel that makes us think, makes us consider what we would do, how we would respond. It’s my favorite kind of book: the one that teaches me about myself and my community.

Small Great Things is the story of Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse for twenty years. She’s been a stellar employee and nurse and raised an honor student alone after her husband died serving in Afghanistan. By all appearances, Ruth is a model citizen and a genuinely great nurse. She is also African American.

Why does this matter?

It doesn’t. Except to Turk and Brittany, white supremacists who object to Ruth being the nurse for their newborn baby, Davis.

When circumstances arise that leave Ruth watching over Davis, the baby stops breathing, codes and ultimately dies.

I imagine you can guess what happens next.

Ruth is charged with murdering the baby as revenge.

Small Great Things is told in three alternating voices: Ruth, Turk, father of Davis and white supremacist, and Kennedy, the white public defender assigned to represent Ruth.

Each character is fully developed with a thorough back story. Reading how Turk came to be so filled with hate was a lesson in humanity. Kennedy thought she was not racist because she “didn’t see color.”. Her passion for social justice and winning Ruth’s case was a lesson in humanity. Which was more important: winning or compassionately understanding another person?

[Tweet “Compassionate novel of white privilege and racism by @jodipicoult”]

While the book is not without flaws, a few passages and actions seemed outside of reality, but, then again, isn’t that why we read? as an escape of reality?  Ambiguous endings are not a favorite for me and Picoult has been known to have a few those. Small Great Things gives us a shocking, yet also neatly wrapped ending. I think I’ve read every Jodi Picoult book, and while Leaving Time will probably always be my favorite, Small Great Things is a close second. It is relevant, a mirror for today’s society and told with depth and compassion.

 

*Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the review copy.

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