Debut novel Lucid, by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass, is about two girls: Maggie, an up-and-coming actress in New York City, and Sloan, a straight-A student from Mystic, Connecticut. When Maggie isn’t auditioning, she’s picking up the slack for her less-than-responsible mother by taking care of her younger sister, Jade. Sloan, meanwhile, lives a much more Leave it to Beaver life, with good friends, responsible parents and an adorable younger brother. On the surface, they’re two girls who have nothing at all in common.
Except that they dream of each other every night. When Maggie goes to sleep, Sloan’s day begins and vice-versa. Neither can control the other, but each is aware of every thought, emotion and interaction the other experiences. Maggie’s only told one person about her dreams: her psychiatrist, who is becoming increasingly vocal about her concern for Maggie’s welfare. Sloan has told no one. As each girl starts to question her own reality—and the nature of reality itself—their lives become more and more entwined, until it’s clear that something’s got to give... or else both of them will irrevocably break.
Bookshelves of Doom weighs in on Jeanne Ryan's 'Nerve.'
Lucid is a tough book to write about, as so much of the enjoyment in reading it lies in trying to figure out what the heck is going on. (See: Inception, Shutter Island.*) Lucid differs from those examples, though, in that discovering the final answer to the questions raised—are they both real people, and if not, who is dreaming who?—won’t necessarily detract from a reader’s enjoyment upon a re-read. In fact, like The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense***, it might even enhance it. But I’m not going to be the one to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, this book could make for a really great book group discussion.
All that said, it’s not a book I’m frothing over. It’s extremely well crafted; while it was fascinating to find the similarities and parallels between the two girls’ lives—and to try to identify what (and who) originated where, and which of those aspects corresponded to something (or someone) on the other side—ultimately, the book never completely held my attention. Here’s why: It engaged me intellectually, but not emotionally. Sloan and Maggie were puzzles to be solved, not people that I particularly cared about one way or the other. For me, that’s a dealbreaker. But people look for different things in a reading experience, so Lucid very well might cause you to do joyous backflips. I’ll be curious to hear what you think.
If you’d like to read something along semi-similar lines—about a woman who lives two separate lives, waking and in dreams—I highly recommend Charles de Lint’s Newford stories. In those, Sophie Etoile lives her waking life in Newford, and her dream life in the city of Mabon. The tone is totally different—de Lint’s books lie squarely within the realm of magical realism, and he writes with a warmth that is not present in Lucid—but some of the same basic themes are there.
*Ironically, I hated Inception. And I guessed Shutter Island’s twist upon hearing the basic premise**. But you take my point, I think.
**One of the drawbacks of reading voraciously, I guess?
***Called those ones, too. Wow, I’m obnoxious.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.