The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker


In a college town called Santa Lora, California, life is playing out as usual until one day, a young woman never wakes up from her deep sleep. She continues sleeping for days on end. Slowly, the sleeping sickness begins to spread across her dorm room floor, then across the campus, and, eventually, across all of Santa Lora. Doctors and psychologists are utterly at a loss, especially when they discover that the brain activity of those affected is significantly higher than those ever recorded.

What an interesting book. At about the halfway point, I was feeling a bit ambivalent about The Dreamers. I was able to appreciate the unique writing style and was very excited about the story, but I was also finding the entire sickness to be without purpose and flirting with the idea of disaster for the sake of disaster. I also felt far away from the characters and a bit confused by their story lines, since Thompson Walker’s style imparts information very subtly and with minimal explanation. Some of the less frequently visited characters, like Henry and Nathaniel, blended together, making it challenging to follow their path through the Santa Lora Sickness.

However, once I finished the book, my opinion shifted. By the end, I felt that many of the characters imparted wisdom either through their reaction to the disaster or by their actions throughout. The Dreamers feels hypothetical and cautionary and, as a reader, I felt like I was floating above the scenes watching very intimate moments from an emotional distance. Having this separation was alienating at first from the very true emotions happening within each of our characters, but towards the end I felt that the style suited the story.

In particular, I felt moved by the honesty of Ben, Annie, and their 8 week old baby. The author depicts the parent’s blind focus on keeping a child safe and alive with all of its facets: the good, the bad, and, at times, even the shameful. I also think Mei and Matthew’s story will stick with me long after today. The way their story ends says something about humanity, about the reasons behind love, the blurring of ethics and relationships, and the way our motivations typically shift when we care about another person.

Overall? A book with a really strong plot and a very quiet style. A short read, and worth picking up for the takeaways and to form your own opinion.

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Publication Details: Random House; January 15, 2019; 978-0812994162 ; Science Fiction - > Dystopian