The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers.jpg

The Dreamers
by Karen Thompson Walker
320 pages
Random House (January 15, 2019)
Electronic copy provided by publisher; hardback personal copy

Even though author Emily St. John Mandel has provided a recommendation on the cover of The Dreamers, prompting comparisons to her bestselling Station Eleven (one of my all-time faves), I do not think the two are very similar; instead, this novel reminds me of another of my favorites, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen (review here), and I felt equally disturbed and enchanted by this story and its characters.

They are connected like this: two people in peril every day. Here he is beside her. Here is his hand, laced in hers at the end of the day. Here is his hip pressed into hers in the night. What does it matter what they call it?

More than a simple doomsday tale, reminiscent of the 1995 film Outbreak, author Thompson Walker creates a story that is much more relatable and thought-provoking, thanks to to depth of its characters and the interconnectedness of their individual stories.

My experience of reading this novel is very similar to that of an interval workout: the pace is urgent, but sustainable; I push hard, my heart rate rises, and then I get a few minutes to recover. By varying the circumstances of each individual character - their position/station in life, age and experience, relationships - there is a natural progression to the narrative; the tension and discomfort are always present, but there are moments for reflection and even gratitude.

This is the opening of a jar. Months of restraint give way: it turns out that all the things they haven’t said - whether from kindness or fear or something else - are still sitting there, just waiting to jump from their throats.

I don’t often read novels of this type or description so, when I do, I have high expectations; Karen Thompson Walker handles our fears and worst-case scenarios with care and this is a fantastic, pulsating, plot-driven novel with a beautifully emotional cast. This is my first novel of hers and now I’d like to read her debut, The Age of Miracles.







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