Book Club

Review: “The dreamers” by Karen Thompson Walker

Dear readers,
today I propose a novel that makes you think and that is very relevant, especially in this period when an unknown virus hovers over the world bringing fear and death.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9416-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Silence, like when it snows. An icy, total peace, to numb the limbs. And then dreams, as deep as oceans, one after the other, without respite. This is what anyone who falls ill with the mysterious “Santa Lora virus”, named after the town where it all began, faces. It’s a clear early fall night when a college student from the small downtown California walks away from a party early on her classmates, she drops onto her bed and never wakes up. A few days pass and the infection spreads. Although the authorities are quick to put the college under quarantine, the disease continues to claim victims: from house to house, from family to family, from dream to dream, Santa Lora succumbs to the mysterious epidemic. But inside the envelope of those immobile bodies, in the recesses of those consciences sunk in a sleep that prefigures death, a tireless whirlwind of visions, false memories, half omens – now indecipherable, now more glaring than reality itself – shuffles and upsets the destinies of all. A choral novel on the themes of love, the passing of time and the meaning of life, “The Dreamers” delves deeply into the characters and dynamics of a community in danger to draw the definitive map of our fears, our infinitesimal triumphs and our vulnerabilities.

This extraordinary story takes place in Santa Lora, a small town in California and the protagonists are some inhabitants, whose lives cross during the explosion of an unknown virus that causes a heavy and intense sleep.

In fact, suddenly and without any apparent reason, the college before and gradually the whole country, are shocked by fear and bewilderment due to the advance of a mysterious “sleeping sickness”, brought by a virus so dangerous and so fast that it upsets the lives of all and makes an almost unknown country jump to the headlines.

The alarm goes off when a college student falls asleep after a party and never wakes up.

And in quick succession the same fate befalls several comrades.

The isolation of the college is not enough to stop it, and the virus soon spreads throughout the city with incredible speed. All are potential victims and the need arises to create a cordon of health: no one can enter or leave Santa Lora.

Here our protagonists lead their lives, which the author presents to us in their essential features.

There is Mei, the eighteen-year-old girl stationed with the first victim of the virus, who together with Matthew, after evading the quarantine, decides to help people in need.

There are Ben and Annie, with their marital problems unsolved and overshadowed by the arrival of their daughter Grace.

There is Nathaniel and Henry and then Sara and Libby, with their super protective dad.

Only a few of them will be able to escape the dangerous virus. All the others, however, will succumb to it and fall into a deep sleep that will last several weeks and that will lead them to fight their own battle for life.

Meanwhile, several specialized doctors arrive in Santa Lora to help keep all sleeping people alive, but none of them will be able to explain this strange phenomenon.

One thing is certain, though.

The victims of the virus dream and they are sure of that particular flickering of the eyelids that always accompanies the dreams of those who sleep.

“The contents of these dreams cannot be documented, of course, but the brain waves of some patients are detected by electrodes and projected on a monitor, as a silhouette from the afterlife. From the screens you can see that they are not the brains of normal sleeping subjects. They are not the brains of comatose patients. They are extraordinarily active brains. In those minds there is more activity than has ever been recorded in the brain of a human subject, awake or immersed in sleep. “

But what they dream about will remain a mystery.

The inhabitants are forced to close themselves at home, any contact with anything is dangerous and the only access road to the city is manned by the army.

Several theories are formulated, from contaminated water to a conspiracy, to a curse that weighs on Santa Lora, often devastated by earthquakes, droughts and deadly influences, and no one can explain how a virus can be so contagious.

“But the reality is different: on the fourteenth day, a researcher from a federal laboratory in Los Angeles isolates the Santa Lora pathogen in a petri dish. The origin of the problem, it turns out, is not madness, poison or bacteria. Santa Lora is haunted by a force that is neither alive nor dead: a virus, still unknown to science. “

It is forbidden to meet, talk, touch, stay together, because

“this is how the disease is transmitted more easily: through the same channels of affection, friendship and love.”

Meanwhile, the victims, in the beds of an arranged hospital, continue to dream. They have unstoppable dreams that are completely indifferent to what is happening around them.

For the inhabitants of Santa Lora, life goes by slowly, but it continues to flow, until you encounter the virus and fall asleep in the strangest ways.

And then, at a certain point, unexpectedly, someone wakes up and tells his extraordinary journey into the world of dreams.

“Someone has dreamed of their own youth. Someone dreamed of old age. Someone dreamed of life as it could have been, all unlived lives. Or lives lived in another world.

Distortions of time are not uncommon in dreams, as if each dream had its own physical laws.

Many have dreamed of the future, but few are interested in the content of dreams. “

A novel that makes us reflect on the instability of life, on its precariousness and on the precariousness of our place in the world.

In this novel everything is outlined in a precise way, yet it perfectly renders the idea of confusion, anxiety, fear that reigns in the village and that our protagonists live.

The same sensations that all of us have breathed in this period of pandemic, closed in our homes, helpless spectators of what was happening in the world.

The sense of fear, of “heaviness of the heart” is palpable, as well as of the pace and thoughts and this climate of distrust for others, this restlessness, remain high for the duration of the novel which, for this reason, it makes you read all in one breath and makes us think about “how bleak the future is, how we all go through life as if we were blindfolded, ignoring what will happen tomorrow.”


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