Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Book Review | THE DREAMERS by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers
by Karen Thompson Walker
Random House
January 15, 2019
Literary Fiction
Rating: ★★★★
In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl 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 who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Apocalyptic novels are not among my picks for casual reading, because they usually employ chaos and human degradation. They simply hollow me out for days after reading. Death with Interruptions by José Saramago is one of the few that I really like because of its atypicality.

THE DREAMERS may be one of those atypical too. In the small town of Santa Lora California, a sleeping virus had spread. There were no symptoms. Patients simply went to sleep and cannot be awakened.

“ much quieter that ending would be, a whole world drowned in sleep, than all the other ways we have to fail.”

The first victim was a student from a local college. Karen staggered into her dorm room, after a decent night of partying and drinking, fell asleep, and cannot be woken the following day. Initially, Karen’s dorm floor was quarantined. Over the following weeks, though, the sleeping virus spread and a cordon sanitaire were pitched around the small town. No one can get in or out. Military Humvees patrol the streets, while helicopters scan from the air. The whole town went into a meek, mutual panic. Each day, more people are sporting facemasks and latex gloves. But the doctors were baffled by the cause and how exactly the virus is spreading. Only one thing was determined, these sleepers have intense brain activity. They are all dreaming deeply.

“This is how the sickness travels best: through the same channels as do fondness and friendship and love.”

Walker’s narrative is both spellbinding and evocative. She paraded this host of people in different states and examined each one from within. There is no hysteria or visible menace, instead, we are asked to quietly recognize humanity amidst loss and fear of the unknown and to be in awe of how a spark of life can strive despite the odds.

If you are into audiobooks, Cassandra Campbell recorded a very convincing narrative.

* I won this book from Goodreads Giveaway.


Post a Comment