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“Not everything that happens in a life can be digested. Some events stay forever whole. Some images never leave the mind.”
While I really liked this quote that I found in the book, I ended up just liking the rest of the book. In The Dreamers, Thompson Walker paints a picture of a Californian town that is home to an outbreak of a sleeping sickness. People are just conking the 🤬 out all over the place, and not many of them are waking up. In fact, most of them end up dying. That was enough to get me to add this book to my TBR and pick it up from the library upon its release. Unfortunately the rest of the book didn’t follow through with what the synopsis got me hooked with.
The writing was very disjointed. In this book it serves to emphasize the chaos that ensues when you have an epidemic outbreak. You get little snippets here and there and you’re not sure what information is accurate and which information is not. You’re following the path of one of the girls who was at the college when the outbreak was first discovered, a family of doomsday preppers who lock themselves away from society once the outbreak starts, a professor at the college and his wife and new baby that live next to the doomsday preppers, and then a psychiatrist from the LA area who is flown in to help figure out whats happening. I think that’s everyone. For the most part. There are also smaller characters who get to have a perspective as well. But these different perspectives act as the Rashomon effect. What’s really happening? Does anybody even know? The answer is just confusion and chaos, which is what I imagine it’s like to live through an epidemic outbreak. Despite the fact that I recognized the disjointed writing for what it was, I still struggled to maintain interest throughout the book. Luckily it was a fairly short one.
As far as the actual Dreamers go, once the sick fell asleep, it was determined that not only were they just sleeping, but they were actually dreaming. And then came the question, what were they dreaming about? Unfortunately, that question is never really answered. ♈ The father in the doomsday prepper family dreamt of the future, though we find out at the end that his dreams of the future, though predictive, are not accurate. The professor at the college dreamed of the past, though he didn’t actually think it was about the past because he didn’t technically remember the events he was dreaming about, he was told by his wife that they were from the past. But I’m not quite sure if his wife is reliable because she also fell sick and became a dreamer. So are they dreaming of the future or the past? It never really becomes clear. ♈
We did learn that the sleeping sickness came from a virus, so that question was answered. I’m going to be honest, I totally thought it was going to come from aliens. 👽 I was wrong. And other than the fact that some of the dreamers woke up and some of them didn’t, we don’t see what happens to them. The story kind of ends when the sickness stops spreading and the majority of the dreamers wake up. But we don’t see if there are any long-term effects from the virus or where it came from. How did it spring up in this specific town? It was very anti-climactic. I did a little digging, and sleeping sickness is a real thing, and while the WHO didn’t mention dreaming related to the sickness (African Sleeping Sickness), it did indicate that most people would just fall in to a sleep and then die. This disease has even popped up with various outbreaks over the years.
When I read the synopsis I think I was more excited and focused on the dreaming (I mean, hello, the title is The Dreamers), but after reading the book I think the focus was more on the outbreak of disease and what happens to human nature and our moral code when a new (or old) virus crops up. Which means that all of my burning questions about the dreams are just left burning.
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What other books have you read about people dreaming? I’m super in to dreams, so tell me what’s the weirdest dream you ever had?
One thought on “The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker”
Totally agree with this. Well said! Anti climactic and tough to get through.
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