Divining Another Dream by Bernadette Davis

Divining Another Dream

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Davis’ debut novel relates the tumultuous life of a young girl with the fantastical gift of “foresight.” 

Nine-year-old Laiza can see future events, yet she must constantly record these visions, as she can’t form memories. Readers watch her struggle to maintain friendships, pass elementary school classes, and navigate much bigger challenges. Her only source of stability is her bond with her mother, but even that’s endangered when Laiza’s teachers interpret her strange behaviors as possible indicators of abuse. Ominously, she becomes aware that she will be injured in the future, and readers will dread watching her try to avoid the harm that she knows is coming but can’t foresee exactly. Most harrowing of all, a “gap” looms for Laiza—an approaching time period whose events she can’t anticipate. What does it represent? Death, or the return of her memory? These uncertainties sometimes lend the book an almost thrillerlike narrative propulsion. However, the exact nature of what Laiza does and doesn’t know is often murky; for example, her unwavering recognition of her mother seems contradictory. Most of the characters who interact with her are children or adults accustomed to speaking with kids, which creates an odd contrast between Laiza’s extraordinarily complex perception of time and her simplistic, childish interactions with people around her. In the book’s last third, Laiza and her mother pull up stakes and move in with Laiza’s uncle. The characters subsequently have several intense conversations, and Laiza appears to struggle with profound personal issues. Yet the author withholds so much information from readers that it’s difficult to tell what exactly is happening or why. This is a shame, because these passages feature a reveal that pushes the story toward fundamental questions of life, death, and remembrance. One wonders if more drafts, with an eye toward clarity, would have made this last act coalesce into a truly moving portrait of Laiza and her family as they struggle with memory and grief. As it is, this portion of the book is simply inscrutable.

An ambitious, promising novel that explores a unique premise with dramatic tension but struggles with clarity in its third act.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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