BEFORE I WAKE by Robert J. Wiersema


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A curious novel blending family drama and supernatural events.

Tragedy strikes when Karen Barrett and her three-year-old daughter, Sherry, are hit by a truck. Karen’s injuries are minor, but Sherry sustains a head trauma that leaves her in a coma. As Sherry languishes in a hospital bed, pronounced brain-dead and about to be taken off life support, the driver that struck her faces his own life-or-death decision. Wracked with guilt, Henry wanders the city, abandoning the idea of his own wife and children, until he finds himself at the edge of a cliff. Something happens—he jumps but is held back by the hand of God or fate or some otherworldly force. He then becomes part of a legion of other ghost-like immortals (led by a man calling himself Tim) who study in the library at night, attempting a kind of penance. Meanwhile, Sherry, able to live without life support, is brought home, where now-single Karen (husband Simon left her shortly after the accident, moving in with another woman) cares for her with the help of retired nurse Ruth. Having attended Sherry for a few months, Ruth discovers that her painful arthritis has gone away. Suspecting Sherry may have healing powers, she invites her terminally ill sister over, and after a single visit, her lung cancer goes into in remission. Soon, news of Sherry’s abilities has spread across the city and beyond, with pilgrims lining up for a chance to touch the holy child. A man calling himself Father Peter (with ancient connections to Tim) threatens the Barretts, accusing them of blasphemy, and not long after, protesters are also in front of their house menacing the fractured family with taunts and random acts of violence. To Wiersema’s credit, he’s able to easily unify the family drama with the startling nature of Sherry’s powers—it is only at the end, when Father Peter and Tim (their true identities revealed) battle it out for cosmic justice, that the author threatens to tip the balance.

An engaging and unusual story—a debut with promise.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2007
ISBN: 0-312-36318-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2007