Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 10th, 2017
Synopsis: 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 Rickert, 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 mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel by one of our most treasured storytellers.
One thing that Chris Bohjalian can be counted on doing is tackling controversial or little known subjects, and imaginatively creating a story around them filled with complex characters. In the case of The Sleepwalker the subject is parasomnia, of which I knew little about beyond the obvious. I was shocked and fascinated by all the unusual behavior that sufferers can exhibit while sleeping. While what happens to Annalee isn’t a huge surprise, the how and the why are the true mysteries and I was kept guessing pretty much throughout the entire book. Adding to the intrigue are characters who are all secretive and unreliable. The story is told in the first person POV of Lianna, who although it took me a while, I actually wound up liking. She’s one of those characters that’s filled with contradictions. She’s a pot addict, and does a few incredibly stupid things because of this. Yet she also puts her own life on hold and leaves college to come home and take care of her younger sister, as their dad isn’t coping all that well with the disappearance of his wife. While theirs is definitely a dysfunctional family, they wind up being a lot closer than it seems in the beginning. The romance between Lianna and Gavin is a little off-putting at first, because he’s keeping secrets of his own, but they develop into a believable and likable couple. The big reveal did come as mostly a surprise to me and the ending was bittersweet but completely believable. The only reason why I’m giving this only 4 stars is because I found the first 1/3 of the book to be slow going. Once I got past that though, the pace picked up and I wound up finishing the rest of the book in one sitting. For the most part I think The Sleepwalker will please Bohjalian’s many fans, while at the same time attract new ones.