Sleep, Sex and Sisters: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Originally published January 2017

Sleep really is one of life’s last great mysteries.

Think about it — it’s the one thing you are present for but of which you have no active knowledge of, or control over, what you are doing. And for most of us, thankfully, it’s … sedate. Chances are, you spend your slumber flat on your back, stomach or side, snoring, drooling or some combination of the two, and you wake up to get on with your day. Every day.

But what if you were a sleepwalker?

Maybe you are, and don’t even know it. Shoot, I wish I was a sleepwalker. But only if I could use that time effectively, to get shit done around the house — the boring stuff, like folding laundry and cleaning floors. More time to read during the day. Win-win!

Sadly, sleepwalking wasn’t everything it could have been for Lianna Ahlberg’s mother, Annalee, in Chris Bohjalian’s latest, “The Sleepwalker.” In fact, it’s pretty much why she meets her maker. And it’s up to Lianna to figure out exactly what happened that late summer night when Annalee goes missing.

I’ve long been a Bohjalian fan — and I’d rank The Sleepwalker toward the top of his booklist, below favorites such as “The Double Bind” and “Night Strangers” but above “Secrets of Eden” and “The Guest Room.” His latest offers several meaty characters, from 21-year-old Lianna and her 12-year-old sister Paige to their dad, Warren and case detective-turned-lover, Gavin Rickert. And on top of that, a Vermont town full of eager gossips. Lianna’s got plenty of people she can probe for details about her mother’s life.

**WARNING** I’m about to go spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution …



OK — so, Bohjalian’s mysteries almost always have some kind of fantastic twist, as is the case with this book. As a result, I’m usually guessing about 1/3 in as to what is going to happen. And in this case, because Lianna is the sole narrator, I was waiting to discover she did her mother in. Because Lianna draws you in and you want to to help her, so of course she would end up being the killer. But, there’s also Warren. Is he really Paige’s dad? Did he resent his wife enough to off her? And we’ve also got Paige, who understandably withdraws from her athletic passions with her mother’s disappearance. Is she depressed or just damn guilty? And let’s not forget Gavin, a longtime friend of Annalee from their time at the sleep clinic, now romancing a dead woman’s daughter. (Admittedly, I’m struggling a bit with this relationship — a little high on the creep factor for me.)

Gotta read to find out — and it’s a great one. Clocking in at less than 300 pages, it’s easy to knock off in a weekend and dish over with book club the next night.

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