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The Sleepwalker

Cover of The Sleepwalker

The Sleepwalker

A Novel
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room comes a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire—the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night.
When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?
Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room comes a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire—the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night.
When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?
Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover

    Chapter One

    Everyone in the county presumed that my mother's body was decaying—becoming porridge—at the bottom of the Gale River. It was the year 2000, and we were but three seasons removed from the Y2K madness: the overwrought, feared end of the digital age. It was a moment in time when a pair of matching towers still stood near the tip of lower Manhattan. Fracking and photobomb and selfie were years from becoming words, but we were only months from adding to our vocabularies the expression hanging chad.

    I was twenty-one that summer and fall, and my sister was twelve. Neither of us fully recovered.

    The experts were surprised that Annalee Ahlberg's body hadn't been found, since a drowned body usually turns up near its point of entry into the water. But near is a relative term. And so police divers had searched long stretches of the waterway and even dredged a section along the levee that was built to protect the road from the flash floods that seemed to mangle the great, sweeping curve there every other decade. But there was no trace of her. They had scoured as well the small, shallow beaver pond in the woods a quarter of a mile behind my family's red Victorian and found nothing there, too. Nevertheless, my younger sister and I thought it most likely that our mother was in that Vermont river somewhere. We hadn't given up all hope that she would return alive—at least I hadn't—but every day it grew harder to feign optimism for our father or say the right things (the appropriate things) when people asked us how we were doing.

    One day after school, a little more than two weeks after the police and the mobile crime lab and the Zodiac boats had moved on—when all the tips had proven apparitions—Paige took her swim fins, a snorkel, and a mask and had gotten as far as the edge of the river before I was able to convince her that she was wasting her time. My sister was sitting on a rock about fifteen feet above the water in her navy-blue tank suit with the profile of a seahorse on her hipbone, the suit she wore when she swam laps at the pool at the college where our father taught. Clearly she meant business. Paige was in the seventh grade then, already a daredevil ski racer to be reckoned with, and in the summer and fall, at her ski coach's urging, most days she swam laps for an hour or so. She was still young enough to believe that she was a force of nature. She still dreamt when she was awake.

    "You know, the water is so low now, you really won't need your fins," I observed, hoping I sounded casual as I sat down beside her. I thought it was a little ridiculous that Paige thought her fins might be of use. It was the middle of September and it hadn't rained in Vermont in a month. It hadn't rained since our mother had disappeared (which we viewed as mere meteorological coincidence, not a sign of astrological or celestial relevance). The water was only shoulder high in that part of the river, and the channel was no more than ten or twelve yards wide. The fins would be an encumbrance, not an asset, to a swimmer as strong as Paige.

    "Then I won't use them," she mumbled.

    "Maybe at the basin," I suggested, throwing her a bone. The basin, a little downstream of where we were sitting, was at the bottom of a small waterfall. The water was perhaps a dozen feet deep there, and she could use her fins to push to the bottom.

    "Maybe," she agreed.

    The riverbank was steeply pitched, the slope awash with oak and maple saplings, the leaves already turning the colors of copper and claret. There were occasional clusters of raspberry bushes, the fruit by then long eaten by humans and deer. There were boulders and...

About the Author-
  • CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the critically acclaimed author of nineteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Guest Room, The Sandcastle Girls, The Light in the Ruins, and The Double Bind. His novel Midwives was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah's Book Club. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages, and three of his novels have become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers).
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 14, 2016
    Set in Vermont in 2000, this stylish fusion of mystery and domestic thriller from Bohjalian (The Guest Room) explores the aftermath of the inexplicable disappearance of a woman prone to sleepwalking. Annalee Ahlberg’s two daughters, 21-year-old Lianna and 12-year-old Paige, attempt to find some kind of closure after their beloved mother—who has experienced bizarre sleepwalking episodes in the past—vanishes from her home in the middle of the night. The mystery deepens when Lianna and a detective, who may have had an intimate relationship with Annalee, become emotionally connected. Powered by brilliantly rendered characters, an intriguing topic (parasomnia), and a darkly lyrical narrative that captures the melancholic tone of autumn in New England perfectly (red maples in their “death throes”), this novel has only one weak point—its highly improbable conclusion, which may leave readers unsatisfied. 10-city author tour. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners.

  • AudioFile Magazine Cady McClain narrates the lion's share of Chris Bohjalian's mystery about a missing woman with a history of somnambulation. McClain may have intended a dramatic effect with her approach, but the stiltedness of her frequent and questionably placed pauses gives her reading a mechanical sound. This awkwardness pulls listeners out of the story, which at times is a relief as the book itself seems overly researched. Grace Experience voices the unknown narrator in the short sections that separate the chapters. Experience's reading, while short, works to build some suspense in the audio. The plot's premise is engaging, but the excessive detail and meandering pace combined with the mechanical narration make this audiobook a struggle to finish. J.F. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
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The Sleepwalker
The Sleepwalker
A Novel
Chris Bohjalian
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