Review: The Sleepwalker

The SleepwalkerThe Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Expected publication: January 10, 2017

Doubleday Books


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


noun: parasomnia; noun: para-somnia

a disorder characterized by abnormal or unusual behavior of the nervous system during sleep.

Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or during arousal from sleep.

I really enjoyed Chris Bohjalian’s last book “The Guest Room” and I was very excited to read his new novel, especially after reading the description.

A character in this book suffers from a disorder called Parasomnia, which is a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness. As someone who has also suffered from this affliction, I was quite intrigued.

The book begins in the year 2000. Annalee Ahlberg is a wife and mother of two who vanishes one night. It is assumed that her disappearance has something to do with sleepwalking, a condition that has caused her to do many bizarre and dangerous things. Some of the things she’s done are almost funny, like destroying the plants in front of her home, spraying them with silver paint. But she’s also done things that are terrifying to her and her family, for example almost jumping off a bridge in the middle of the night. Thankfully her oldest daughter woke her just in time.

After her disappearance, her husband places ads with his wifes picture in the area newspapers to keep her image fresh in people’s minds. He tells his daughters people will quickly forget. He says that people survive by being callous, not kind…

Some of Annalee’s behavior led to feelings of shame in both her and her husband. He was embarrassed by her behavior and what people saw, and Annalee was ashamed because of what she could not control.

The night she disappears her husband, Warren is away on a business trip, her daughters both asleep in their beds.

It seems like everyone seems to have something to hide. So many lies and secrets. Where is Annalee and what really happened the night she disappeared?

***Possibly very minor spoilers***. Usually things that are already mentioned in the description or within the first few pages of the book. However, if you prefer knowing very little about a book then you may want to stop here. I don’t ever want to spoil things for anyone.

Annalee’s husband deals with her disappearance by throwing himself into work during the day and drinking until he falls asleep at night. Daughters Lianna and Paige deal with their mother’s disappearance in different ways. Lianna is twenty-one and self medicates in order to cope while her younger sister, Paige who is twelve starts to swim the local river in search of their mother. Both feel very guilty that they didn’t wake up the night their mother vanished.

Everyone is surprised when her body is not found immediately. Why did this happen most often when her husband was out-of-town?

Detective Gavin Rikert is part of the team investigating Annalee’s disappearance. Annalee’s oldest daughter feels as though the detective knows more than he’s saying. She’s determined to find out what he knows about her mother.

I really enjoyed this book. I can tell that Chris Bohjalian is on top of his research. Along with a great story, there was a lot of interesting information about sleep clinics and sleep studies, the different types of parasomnias as well as examples of what kinds things people with this disorder can do. It’s terrifying and sad to think of the things that happen while they are asleep. They don’t just walk around the room and talk. They can cook, have sex, leave the house, drive, and even commit crimes.

This is a subject that many readers may not have thought about, unless they happened to come across an article or news story where someone has committed a crime or had an accident while “sleepwalking”.

I found it both informative and entertaining.

I have had two sleep studies or polysomnograms. The descriptions of the sleep clinics and the tests were very familiar. But while I have done strange things in my sleep (eating, walking, moving things around, waking up in different parts of the house) thankfully I’ve never left my home. My issues are nowhere near as serious as what Annalee suffered from but it gave me some insight and understanding.

The plot was great. The story flowed well and I grew very attached to the characters. I could almost feel the pain and frustration of the characters coming off the page. Reading Lianna’s point of view, her pain and guilt as well as the thoughts from someone else who felt so hopeless and ashamed.

I really wanted to know what happened to Annalee.

In my opinion Chris Bohjalian has written a fantastic book. I found it not only entertaining but also believable. Of course not every single thing is plausible but that’s the beauty of fiction, it doesn’t have to be! If real life hadn’t gotten in the way I could have easily read this in one or two sittings.

This was a suspenseful read with a slow build-up that kept me interested all the way up to a great finish.

Thank you to Chris Bohjalian and Doubleday Books for providing me with an advanced copy to read and review.

View all my reviews

15 thoughts on “Review: The Sleepwalker

  1. Great review, Deanna! I was a sleepwalker in my youth. My parents installed deadbolts high up on the doors that I couldn’t reach after waking one morning to an open front door. Sounds like a very good read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been somewhat on the fence about whether I would want to read this book, but your review is making me think I will. I thought it seemed like a book heavy with info on the sleep disorder but it sounds like there’s a really good mystery at the heart of it

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s