December 30, 2019
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
2019 Random House
Finished on December 28, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)
An ordinary town is transformed by a mysterious illness that triggers perpetual sleep in this mesmerizing novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Miracles.
“This book is stunning.”—Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.
Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?
Written in luminous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking and beautiful novel, startling and provocative, about the possibilities contained within a human life—in our waking days and, perhaps even more, in our dreams.
I loved Walker's debut novel, The Age of Miracles (reviewed here), and was thrilled when I learned she had written another book. It was published at the beginning of the year, but I delayed getting a copy until I knew I could devote my full attention to the book without any interruptions. Life got busy with travel and illnesses and before I knew it, a year had passed since I first read about The Dreamers. A few days before Christmas, I borrowed a copy from the library and started reading on Christmas Eve. I was completely sucked in from the opening lines and had I not been busy preparing our Christmas dinner, I could have easily spent the entire day reading from cover to cover, it was that compelling. The further along I read, the more curious I became about the cause and ultimate outcome of the pandemic. Eager as I was to have my questions answered, yet choosing to savor the book as long as I could, the final pages came far too quickly. Sadly, the denouement was anticlimactic and left me with too many unanswered questions. In spite of this quibble, I loved this riveting story and look forward to more by Karen Thompson Walker.