The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Lianna Ahlberg has always known that her mother, Annalee, is a sleepwalker. So when Annalee goes missing, her family immediately assumes she has vanished while sleepwalking. After all, Lianna once pulled her naked mother off a bridge near the river by their home. A scrap of her nightshirt is found near that same river, and everyone assumes the worst. College-aged Lianna, her twelve-year-old sister, Paige, and their father, Warren, must grapple with a life without this loving mother and wife. Still, the police, including detective Gavin Rikert, continue to probe into Annalee's disappearance. And so does her family. Lianna finds herself learning more about her mother, her parents' marriage, and her family's history of sleepwalking. She also finds herself drawn to Gavin, who knew her mother before she disappeared. Where is Annalee, or her body? And what really happened that night?
This story is almost a treatise in the facts of sleepwalking, or parasomnia. It is told from Lianna's point of view, but interspersed with odd snippets from a journal (or something, we aren't sure) with facts, thoughts, and ruminations about sleepwalking. It's also a very (very) slow-building mystery as we discover what happened to Annalee Ahlberg (as Lianna calls her repeatedly throughout the novel - something that bothered me. Just call her mom!). The novel certainly has some intrigue, but man, it's a slow buildup, and while I liked Lianna and Paige, I wasn't fully part of their world, and I didn't find myself rushing to read this book; it took me five or so days to finish it, which is a lot for me. Now I read it over the holidays, and I wasn't feeling well (not its fault), but still.
Furthermore, the book details a lot of odd plot threads that never seem to fully connect. I often found myself wondering if it was interesting, or just dragging on. Having Lianna tell the story as she's looking back in time was also an odd storytelling device, as it just allowed for weird, pointless inserts (e.g., ruminating about how she never used condoms).
By the time we get to the ending, it is somewhat surprising, but almost a little frustrating. So much buildup for very little resolution, and then the novel is over. In a way, I feel as if Bohjalian suffered (for me) from his greatness; I've loved so many of his other novels and characters that this one just fell a bit flat. It was interesting premise, and not a bad read, but certainly not my favorite of his.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 1/10/2017.
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