Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: The Sleepwalker

Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room comes a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire—the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night.

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 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 strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers. -- Doubleday

I love pretty much everything Chris Bohjalian writes! So when I learned that his latest novel THE SLEEPWALKER  was a thriller/mystery, I couldn't wait to read it. I basically devoured this novel and I was even surprised by the ending. All in all -- THE SLEEPWALKER was a great read!

THE SLEEPWALKER is an intriguing story about Annalee Ahlberg, a wife and mother who goes missing one night. Because Annalee is a sleepwalker and has had some strange incidents in her past, her husband and two daughters fear that she something horrible has happened to her. Her eldest daughter, Lianna, has already saved her mother from jumping off a bridge during a sleepwalker episode; and she is wracked with guilt that she didn't hear her leave the house this time.

A full-scale missing person investigation begins, and a handsome detective named Gavin arrives and starts asking questions. Annalee is intrigued by this man and surprised to learn that her mother had a relationship with Gavin. Gavin, like Annalee, is plagued by severe and strange sleepwalking episodes; and the two commiserated about their condition.

Lianna and her sister Paige are determined to find out what happened to their mother; and at the same time, Lianna finds herself becoming more and more involved with Gavin. She eventually begins to question Gavin's role in her mother's life and her disappearance while also trying to understand her mother's parasomnia.

I have to say that I was immediately drawn to THE SLEEPWALKER, and I think I read it in a 24 hour period. I love Mr. Bohjalian's writing (always have), and I thought the mystery in this novel was very interesting. However, what I found most intriguing about this novel was the sleepwalking angle of the story. I knew almost nothing about this condition (and certainly nothing about the type that Annalee and Gavin suffered from) outside of hearing about kids who walk in their sleep when they are young. All I can say is, "Wow!"

Annalee (and Gavin) both had a sleepwalking condition that made them aggressively pursue sexual encounters in their sleep. I had absolutely no idea that some sleepwalkers are "sleepsexers;" and I have to say that I was amazed by how much this disorder could affect their lives. I thought the author did a great job of explaining this sleepwalking condition for the readers, and he also realistically portrayed just how major the affects of sleepwalking are for those who suffer from it as well as their families.

Mr. Bohjalian is a terrific storyteller and I truly appreciated one of the techniques that he used in this novel. Besides the chapters that told of Lianna's desire to find her mother, there were chapters thrown in that read like a sleepwalker's diary. The interesting thing was that I had no idea whose "diary" it was. It added to the mysterious nature of the story, and I think it made me appreciate even more how the ending came to be revealed.

And last but not least, I actually was surprised by the resolution of the mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance. I had quite a few guesses throughout the story, but I don't think I realized what was happening until I actually read the pages. I love that Mr. Bohjalian wrote such a fantastic story and that I was surprised by the ending! That isn't always the case with thrillers for me.

I do thing THE SLEEPWALKER would make a terrific book club selection. It will appeal to both fans of literary fiction and mysteries. There is a reading guide available with fifteen questions. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include parent/child relationships, sibling relationships, trust, science/medicine, nature vs. nurture, and guilt. Of course, I'm sure most groups will want to talk about sleepwalking and especially sleepsexers.

I really enjoyed THE SLEEPWALKER. I swear Mr. Bohjalian never disappoints! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Kim@Time2Read said...

I've had this one on my list for awhile. Based on your review, I think I better bump it up. Sounds like a good one!

Dorothy N said...

I really loved your review. I am a big fan of Chris Bohjalian : there is always a great plot and wonderful characters in all of his books! Can't wait to start reading it!

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

I'm a fan of Bohjalian too and this book sounds so good! I've never heard of sex-sleeping either, I'm intrigued.

bermudaonion said...

I love Bahjalian's work so I'm not surprised this is so good. I can't wait to read it.