WAKING SAMUEL by Daniel Coyle


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From sportswriter Coyle (Hardball, 1994), a debut about a grief-stricken nurse’s attempt to solve the mystery surrounding an amnesiac patient.

Sara Black grew up on a ranch and, like many farm girls, was never one to brood over things. She met her husband Tom in high school and married him four years later, after getting her nursing degree. Although money was short in the early years, Sara and Tom had a happy marriage from the start, and it was made even happier by the birth of their son Luke. But when he was four, two years ago now, Sara had a car accident and he died. She hasn’t been able to get back on her feet since. At the hospital where Sara works, she goes through the motions, and at home with Tom she moves sullenly through the house like a silent ghost. Blaming herself for Luke’s death, she goes over the events of the crash again and again, retelling them over and over to her friend Josephine, like some bizarre sort of confession. The only distraction she finds is with one of her patients, a comatose gunshot victim Sara watches over obsessively for signs of consciousness. Eventually, the young man wakes up and begins to talk, but he can’t remember anything but his name: Samuel. Sara stays by his side for hours each day, coaxing him for details of his life as they return in fragmentary pieces. He recalls a home near Chicago, a summer camp in Alaska, a gang of backwoods children with guns. Sara contacts the missing-persons bureaus of Sam’s hometown, but there is no case matching his description. Is Sam still an amnesiac? Or is there something more sinister behind his disappearance? For a woman who has lost one boy, the strange and almost miraculous reappearance of another is bound to raise questions—as well as doubts and fears.

Decently done but unremarkable: a nicely constructed emotional thriller that doesn’t really pay off in the end.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2003
ISBN: 1-58234-281-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2003


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