When Jessie Sloane's mother, Eden, dies of cancer, Jessie is left rudderless. Then she discovers she might not be the person she thought she was.
Jessie never knew her father, and she can’t bear to live in the house that she shared with Eden, so she puts it on the market. When she applies to community college, she gets a call with the alarming news that a death certificate was filed 17 years ago with her name and social security number on it. She'll need to get a copy of her social security card, but without a birth certificate or driver’s license—she doesn’t drive—it’s nearly impossible, and when a clerk takes pity on her and does a search, no records are found. It’s a vicious circle, and it hampers her ability to find an apartment, although she does eventually find a place in a small carriage house she rents from reclusive widow Ms. Geissler. Unfortunately, in addition to the question of her identity, she’s got a more pressing problem: Jessie has insomnia, and as the days pass and she doesn’t sleep, she begins to hear and see things, eventually wondering how long she can go without sleep before it kills her. Woven with Jessie’s first-person narrative is Eden’s tale, beginning 20 years ago in 1996 when she’s only 28. She and her husband, Aaron, are crazy in love and desperately hope for a child, but as time passes and they don’t conceive, they begin trying more aggressive, and more expensive, methods. Eden’s obsession builds to a fever pitch, threatening to tear her and Aaron apart. Jessie’s story, an effective study of grief, nightmarishly builds to its own fever pitch, and Kubica peppers her narrative with creepy, surreal touches that will have readers questioning reality right along with Jessie. Eden’s story, on the other hand, poignantly examines what it’s like to want a child so badly that you’ll do anything to have one. Can Jessie find out who she really is before it’s too late? It all leads to a denouement that isn't very surprising, but a lesser writer might not have been able to pull off the final twist.
Kubica is a helluva storyteller, and while this doesn't quite equal her best efforts, it’s still pretty darn good.