BOOKENDS BOOK REVIEW: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. Review by Jill Hedgecock

‘The Sleepwalker’ (2017, Vintage, paperback, reprint edition, 302 pages, $13.48) by Chris Bohjalian explores the phenomenon of sleepwalking, also called somnambulism. The story centers on the aftermath left by a mother, Annalee, who disappears from her bed one night, and the lingering impacts on her family. Set in Vermont, the novel is part thriller, part whodunit, and part romance. 

The tale’s focus is Annalee’s daughter, twenty-one-year-old Lianna Ahlberg, who experienced sleepwalking as a child. Lianna becomes obsessed with discovering what happened on that fateful night after her mother’s body is found in a nearby river. With her father’s inability to adjust to a new life without his wife, Lianna steps into a parenting role for her 12-year-old sister, Paige, who has sleepwalking incidents of her own. Lianna’s typical young adult life as a college student and her side gig as an amateur magician fall by the wayside as she takes on domestic chores such as grocery shopping and making sure Paige has completed her homework.

When she befriends an older, handsome, and mysterious detective, Gavin, who has a past with her mother, Lianna lies to her father about her whereabouts when she sees the man. Initially, Lianna’s interest in Gavin is based on her goal to stay close to the investigation of her mother’s death, but she soon gets involved with the detective who suffers from the same sleepwalking affliction as her deceased mother. Lianna’s sleuthing soon leads her to discover troubling facts regarding her mother’s sex life and her parent’s relationship. 

Lianna, who isn’t coping well with her mother’s death, turns to substance abuse and self-destructive behavior. Her father, a poetry professor at Middlebury College, is fighting his own demons. He blames himself because Annalee only sleepwalks when he is gone, and he had left for a poetry conference the night his wife disappeared. 

  As Lianna probes deeper into the troubling facts surrounding her mother’s life, she questions her judgment and trust in the man with whom she’s involved. Full of twists and turns, The Sleepwalker will keep you guessing what happened to Annalee until the very end. 

‘The Sleepwalker,’ is one of Chris Bohjalian’s 20 books, including ‘The Flight Attendant,’ ‘The Guest Room,’ and ‘Midwives,’ a #1 New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. Chris’s work has been translated into 35 languages. Three of his novels have become movies (‘Secrets of Eden,’ ‘Midwives,’ and ‘Past the Bleachers’), and ‘The Flight Attendant’ has been adapted for a television drama starring Kaley Cuoco. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College. Chris lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer. 

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Jill Hedgecock is the author of Between Shadow’s Eyes and Award-Winning Rhino in the Room