Bohjalian’s latest considers the impact of a sleepwalker’s disappearance on her husband and children.
Lianna Ahlberg, Bohjalian’s 21-year-old protagonist and first-person narrator, drops out of Amherst after her mother, Annalee, a known sleepwalker, disappears one night. Lianna takes over the running of the family’s Victorian home in the fictitious village of Bartlett, Vermont. The family and police fear her mother may have fallen, or jumped, off a bridge into the river below—a somnambulating Annalee had been wrestled off that bridge before, by Lianna. Her father, Warren, a Middlebury College professor, copes poorly, dosing himself with scotch and passing out every night in front of the TV. Preteen sister Paige, the only athlete and brunette in the family (causing some to doubt her parentage), bridles under Lianna’s supervision. Lianna is drawn to Gavin Rikert, the police detective investigating the disappearance. Gavin, 12 years her senior, is equally interested in her. A sleepwalker himself, Gavin had maintained an avowedly platonic friendship with Annalee after they met in a sleep clinic. Italicized segments preceding each chapter are narrated by a sleepwalking insider, presumably Annalee, who claims to suffer from “sexsomnia”: a rare condition wherein sleepwalkers turn sexually voracious. If they're in bed alone, as Annalee was on the night she went missing (Warren was at a conference), they'll go in search of a partner and/or victim. Alarmingly, it turns out that Gavin also has that proclivity, which doesn’t bother Lianna as much as it should, especially after they begin sleeping together. The problem with the novel is primarily one of shape. The first two-thirds of the book are spent wondering whether Annalee is missing or dead. Once we find out, the pace picks up, but the only reason the ending is a surprise is because most of the clues seeded in the first two-thirds prove to be red herrings.
Sensational subject matter aside, this thriller is a sleeper.