Tag Archives: Chris Bohjalian

The Sleepwalker

9780385542555_p0_v1_s192x300Chris Bohjalian’s The Sleepwalker had me reading until I found out whodunnit.  Unfortunately, I read until I went to bed – and then had trouble going to sleep.  I resisted googling “sleepwalking” – better not to now how factual the references were.

Bohjalian’s sleepwalker is a beautiful architect with an English professor husband and two  girls, one a college senior, the other nine years younger; she suffers from a sleepwalking condition that may have caused her death.  Her history reveals a night when she almost jumped off a bridge and another when she spray-painted the hydrangea in the front yard – remembering neither event.

When Annalee’s sleepwalking seems to be in remission, her husband leaves for an out of town conference, despite the possibility she might walk into the night without him nearby in bed.   The next morning, her daughter discovers her missing, and as the search continues, possible perpetrators emerge until finally the body is found – only to restart the investigation and the story in a different direction.

Throughout the plot, red herrings draw the reader into fake paths, highlighting character flaws and revealing salacious possibilities. Bohajlian builds the suspense with background on each of the suspects – the husband, of course; the detective who shared coffee and her condition; possible unknown lovers.  But I never guessed who really did it and how, despite the killer’s short ramblings of anonymous notes between the chapters. No spoilers here.

A fast-paced thriller with Bohjalian’s trademark surprise ending, The Sleepwalker is a mystery with Gothic tones and Alfred Hitchcock intrigue.

 

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

9780385534833_p0_v5_s260x420The news explodes with catastrophes periodically – an earthquake, a tsunami, a flood – and our attention is drawn to the horrors for a few days, maybe even weeks if the news cycle has little to do but monitor the clean-up.  After a while, the next explosion grabs the headlines, and those who were closely affected are forgotten.  In Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, Chris Bohjalian focuses on the life of a sixteen year-old girl, whose father was the engineer who may have been responsible for the meltdown of a nuclear plant in Vermont.  Her life changes in a New York minute from typical teen-age angst and hijinks to misery, paranoia, and homelessness. Despite Bohjalian’s facility with words, this is a difficult book to read.

The protagonist, Emily, loves poetry and aspires to be a writer.  Her favorite author is her namesake – Emily Dickinson, and the story is sprinkled with the reclusive author’s poetry.  The title, however, as lyrical and visionary as it seems, is not poetic. The phrase originated from another horror – the teachers’ directions to the young children who had survived a massacre at their school.  To keep them from seeing their dead classmates, they were instructed to hold hands and close their eyes as they were escorted outside.  Bohjalian insists that the reader know this – his quirky balance between shock and relief that he does so well, as he guides the reader through Emily’s maze from orphaned self-mutilating survivor to sympathetic protector of a nine year-old runaway, and finally, to a semblance of salvation.

At one point, the author notes:

“…We watch it, we read about it, and then we move on.  As a species, we’re either very resilient or super callous. I don’t know which…”

Emily’s trials are unforgettable, and in her case…hope is not the thing with feathers…

 

The Night Strangers

It was a dark and stormy night.

No electricity in the eerie old mansion, a scary apparition calls for restitution, and bones morph into ghosts.   If you like Bohjalian’s brand of psychological drama, The Night Strangers will have the hair on the back of your neck prickling, and you will be wondering what is real and what is imagined.

Chip Linton was not as lucky as Sully Sullenberger; Chip crash landed his commercial jet into a lake, but thirty-nine passengers died.  Trying to recover from the trauma and guilt of surviving, Chip moves his family from tony West Chester, outside of Philadelphia, to an old house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The basement of the house has a door sealed, conveniently, with 39 bolts.  The story’s narration flips from Chip’s thoughts as he tries to cope with his post-traumatic symptoms to his wife Emily, an attorney who finds work in the village, as she tries to normalize the family’s emotions, and then to their twin daughters, Garnet – red-haired and suffering from epileptic seizures, and Hallie, who, like her mother, acts as a stabilizing force.

What seems like a routine tale of a family in recovery, suddenly turns into a scary tale of “I see dead people.”  The village women who grow exotic plants in their greenhouses, and brew concoctions that can change perspectives add to the drama.

Bohjalian cleverly juggles reality with the paranormal, and you won’t know if the voices and apparitions are real or in Chip’s mind.  You may think you do, but you’ll need to read to the end to be sure.  By creating cliffhangers at strategic points in the plot, Bohjalian sustains the suspense.   The journey was more fun than getting there; the ending left me feeling robbed – but that’s Chris Bohjalian.

A great scary book to read through the night; keep your doors locked and a flashlight handy.

Read my review of another Chris Bohjalian thrillerSecrets of Eden

365 – A Post A Day for 2011

         I did it!    A post a day for 2011.

Click on any date on my 2011 calendar to find something to read.

Last January, the task seemed monumental – not that I didn’t have enough to say (sometimes enough for more than once a day) – but the discipline of posting about a book, or a topic related to reading books…everyday…  could I?   Oh yes, and with pleasure.

And, yes, I really did read everything.   My secret?  When I have a choice of watching yet another lame television show or reading a book – no contest.  Besides, having relocated to another time zone, I sometimes just cannot find those old favorites.

Thanks to all those who silently encouraged me, to those who expressed a “like,” and to those who commented and sometimes carried on a conversation.

Will I try again for 2012?  Probably not every day, but I will continue to post regularly and look forward to sustaining the momentum and the fellow readers I’ve met this year.

Tonight, as I have one ear on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve, I’ll be reading Chris Bohjalian’s Night Strangers – a strange ghost story set in New England – that should keep me awake past midnight.

Happy New Year, Everyone!