The Dreamers

Karen Thompson Walker. Random House, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9416-2
Walker’s richly imaginative and quietly devastating second novel (after The Age of Miracles) begins in a college dorm in an isolated town in the hills of Southern California, where a freshman thinks she is coming down with the flu. In fact, she has a mysterious disease that causes its victims to fall into a deep, dream-laden sleep from which they cannot be woken, and which sometimes leads to death. The disease spreads slowly at first, then more rapidly, and soon the whole town is under a quarantine. The perspective moves smoothly in and out of the minds of several of the college students and town residents, drawing back to look at the entire situation from a detached but compassionate point of view and then plunging back into the minds of those attempting to deal with the escalating problems. Among the characters are Mei, a lonely college freshman; 12-year-old Sara, who copes with an unhinged survivalist father; Sara’s neighbors, a faculty couple with a newborn baby; and aging biology professor Nathaniel. As the majority of the people of the town fall victim to the disease, neuropsychiatrist Catherine Cohen, separated from her family by the quarantine, tries desperately to find its cause, until arson at a library that’s being used as a makeshift hospital has unintended results on the state of some of the dreamers. The relatively large number of central characters makes it likely that some will succumb to the disease, upping the suspense of the story. Walker jolts the narrative with surprising twists, ensuring it keeps its energy until the end. This is a skillful, complex, and thoroughly satisfying novel about a community in peril. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2018
Release date: 01/15/2019
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-385-69244-1
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-385-69246-5
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-63754-7
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-63756-1
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8129-8466-8
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-984833-67-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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