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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: The Sleepwalker: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian

This psychological mystery pulls you to the twist at the revealing conclusion.
The Sleepwalker: A Novel
by Chris Bohjalian
File Size: 1066 KB
Print Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (January 10, 2017)
Genre: Mystery
My Rating: 4.0 of 5.0

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room comes a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire—the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night.

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?
Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers.

Lianna is a young college student home during summer break when her mother disappears one night. Her beautiful mother, Annalee, is a sleepwalker who has had dangerous walks in her sleep before. Neither the search party nor the police have found a body and Lianna and her younger sister, Paige, don’t want to believe their mother is dead. But time keeps passing.

A day or two into the investigation Lianna meets Gavin, a 30ish detective who happened to know Annalee through a sleepwalker treatment program. He admits that he met Annalee outside the program for coffee and to compare notes. Lianna is drawn to Gavin but not sure if she can trust his attention and their attraction. Could his connection with her mother have been more than casual?

Lianna stays home from college while she runs the household trying to make things as normal as possible for her father and sister. She begins to secretly date Gavin. She doesn’t want her father to know and Gavin agrees to secrecy because of his connections to the case. Lianna continues to probe into her mother’s past and presses Gavin for details. Along the way she looks with suspicion upon her father, her neighbors, husbands and wives, as well as Gavin.

The story is written from Lianna’s first person voice which is done well. The reader is drawn into her turmoil, loss, puzzlement and confusion. The author weaves in details about parasomnia and the phenomenon of sleepwalking by means of discussions and journal entries from a sleepwalker.

I liked the writing style although, since I tend to like stories with action, this one was a bit different as it moves more slowly in a social, emotional drama mode. Still, the author does a good job at hooking the reader as I was invested in wanting to know what happened. There are some tense moments and a (possibly foreseeable as there are clues) twist at the point of reveal.

Readers who find family dynamics interesting should like this. I also recommend it to readers who enjoy a more psychological mystery.

I received this from the Publisher through NetGalley. It qualifies for my 2017 NetGalley Challenge.


  1. Great review, Martha. I've enjoyed a few of Bohjalian's so I'd give this a try.

  2. Great review. I enjoy reading psychological mysteries, but I don't think I've read one like this one. I'll have to give this one a try. Thanks tor sharing your thoughts and feelings about this story with us.


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