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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Dreamers: A Novel

Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles is a book that hit me like a ton of bricks and has stayed with me for years (since 2012!); when I saw that her newest book, The Dreamers, was available for request on Netgalley I jumped on it. 

A mysterious virus is snaking it’s way through Santa Lora, a sleepy college town deep in California. It’s starts with one student, makes its way to get another, and soon the entire town is blanketed in sleep, dreaming but not waking. Very few will be left awake, and the town is under full quarantine. Who will survive and who will not? What is happening deep down at the cellular level to cause this disease — and what are the dreamers dreaming? 

I wish that my blurb on this book could be a fraction as eloquent as Walker is in her prose. She is one of the most languid and beautiful novelists of our day. She writes with such a deep understanding of her characters yet provides us this knowledge at a remove; it’s as if she’s our higher power telling us the story of our ancient civilization. It’s a folklore that will be come to know by all who dwell here. It’s incredible, her ability to move me as a reader while still feeling like a universal storyteller. 

Walker focuses on Mei, a young woman who feels like an outcast in her college dorm. Her roommate is the first to experience infection and pass away. Walker has written Mei to be the most empathetic of characters, one that is easy to relate to even though in the surface it seems we have nothing in common. Mei, who is asked to endorse more than any 19 year-old does. She is in the eye of the hurricane and when it fans out, she is the moral compass in the storm. She, along with Sarah and Libby, the two young daughters of janitor at the college, anchored this story for me more than any other characters. The couple with the baby felt too close to home for me, as it made my gut ache. Walker has a way of doing that. The story is important, but the characters’ journeys are the lifeblood. 

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