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The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

BOTTOM LINE: Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Genre: Fiction; Suspense and Thriller; Suspense Romance
Publication Date: 10 January 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“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.”

My Thoughts: If one were to just look at the title, it is easy to dismiss The Sleepwalker as a frivolous story. After all, a sleepwalker immediately conjures images of kids wandering the hallways in their pajamas or doing something equally silly in their sleep. However, Mr. Bohjalian shows just how dangerous and disruptive sleep disorders, like sleepwalking or its darker cousin parasomnia, are to patients and family alike, no matter what age. What he shows is a much darker world in which nighttime is synonymous with anxiety and sleep becomes fraught with danger. Just how much danger becomes apparent as Lianna searches for and obtains answers to her mother’s final hours.

Mr. Bohjalian captures human emotions so well, which is one of the reasons why his stories are so powerful. Lianna’s grief and confusion are palpable, making it easy to lose yourself in her pain and fears. Better yet, her feelings and reactions are great reminders of just how young she is. Mr. Bohjalian does not try to make her older or wiser than her years but maintains her character as an inexperienced twenty-one year old still trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life. Her struggles to fill the hole left by her mother make her even more realistic. She triggers your sympathies and makes you ache at all she has to suffer.

Chris Bohjalian has done it again. With The Sleepwalker, he sheds light on the odd but terrifying disorder of parasomnia incorporated into the bones of a taut and intense murder mystery and poignant burgeoning romance. Informative as well as entertaining, his latest novel has a little something for all readers and is a novel that all will love.

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