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"Before I Wake" is the debut novel by Robert J. Wiersema - and a book which I believe is very successful in its endeavors to tackle some difficult and controversial subject matter in a unique and interesting way. Typically, books that focus on this area tend to be wishy-washy tear-jerkers which hold my attention for no more than five minutes. However, this book was different because it approached the subject matter from a different perspective - and I found it to be a page turner as I was eager to get to the conclusion and some form of resolution. I purchased this book from ibooks for £6.99.
The story starts when 3 year old Sherry Barrett is crossing the road with her mother and is hit by a truck in a hit-and-run accident. The effects of the accident are catastrophic as Sherry is left in a coma and later declared brain dead by her doctors. However, when the difficult decision to withdraw life support is made, miraculously, Sherry continues to breathe unaided - and so she is left in a deep coma with her parents advised that she will never regain consciousness. Sherry is left in a permanent vegetative state with no chance of recovery and so essentially hovering in the limbo that exists between life and death.
Her parents, Karen and Simon are obviously devastated - and once they bring Sherry home to continue caring for her, the cracks in their marriage begin to show and ultimately the separate, with Simon moving in with his mistress (Mary), an associate in his law firm.
The book follows how this accident and the consequences of the accident affect the lives not only of Sherry, Karen and Simon, but also of many others. It follows Henry, the hit-and run driver and the devastating consequences that the accident has on his life. It also follows Mary (Simon's mistress), Jamie (Karen's reporter friend), Sherry's nurse, Father Peter and his disciple - among others.
Over the course of the book, a sequence of events reveal the possibility of miracles - and how these "miracles" not only affect the Barrett's, but also how they affect the lives of those people around them and the people that are drawn into their lives as a result. It focusses on the themes of love, loss, faith, guilt, belief - and how all of these themes are ultimately intertwined and never simplistic.
The story is told through the various perspectives of the key characters and witnesses to the events that unfold. Each chapter is very short and focuses on the thoughts and experiences of a key character - a method which I believe adds depth. I like how the fact that the story is told from the perspective of various characters keeps the story moving in a way which means that the story doesn't stagnate in the way that so many of these types of books often does. Funnily enough, the only person who we don't hear from is Sherry herself, and so despite the fact that everyone's life very much revolves around this little girls fate, she herself is silent, immobile and passive.
Their are elements of the supernatural and how this interlinks with faith and belief. The ultimate question focusses on whether this little girl who lies in a coma has the power to heal in a way that can is inevitably linked to the power that Christ himself has. For some, this possibility gives hope, and for others, this ability creates fear and confusion. Sherry becomes the centre of a religious storm and protest, with believers on one side, and religious doubters on the other who advocate that the claims border on blasphemy.
To be honest, I find some of the supernatural stuff a little confusing in the sense that I'm not sure what the point of it is. Yes, it makes the book interesting and different, but even at the conclusion of the book when certain revelations are made, I'm not sure what these revelations in themselves actually mean and what the motivations were. Some of the metaphors seem a bit clumsy, and yet somehow it was enjoyable and interesting. I think the author needed to go to another level in order achieve what he was setting out to do, but ultimately, although the pieces came together, what this actually meant remained unclear in a way which was unsatisfactory.
This is an intriguing novel and I do think its well worth a read. Its a short book (386 pages on the ibook on ipad) and its possible to read over a few hours. The only frustration I have is that with a little bit of tweaking, I think this book could have been a great book - but it falls just short of the mark because of a few loose ends which, if tied up, could have resulted in a momentous literary achievement.
I can honestly say that I wouldn't normally have picked this book up, but I read 'takeachance's review on here and decided to give it a go.
The story is about Sherilee Barrett who is hit by a truck when she's three, and the ripples that the accident caused on those that came into contact with her.
Some parts of the book are quite odd, but if you persever they will become clear as to why they are there.
Sherry does not die after the accident, but she doesn't wake either. When her nurse discovers her arthritus has disappeared, the concept that Sherry can heal is born, and turns everyone's lives upside down. From her mother, father, doctor, to her mothers journalist friend and her fathers girlfriend to the man who hit her.
The idea maybe on the realms of plausable, but the bible bits that create a sub-story are a little far-fetched and almost irritated me.
And of course, you do get a warm ending, all-be-it realistic.
The writing is done well, with a fast pace, and chapters from different peoples perspective. The way the media cover the story in the book is very real, you can picture them behaving just the way the author describes. And you do get to really feel for the people (yes, even the mistress - just) and hope that Sherry pulls through - but I won't spoil it and tell you what happens.
Summary: a very interesting novel, maybe a little too far-fetched for my liking, but a nice diversion from fluffy and gritty stories
I read 'Before I wake' a month or so ago now yet still find myself thinking about it. I cant decide wether it haunted me, disturbed me or touched me. Im thinking that it may just be because it was a little bit of all three!
If youve ever had one of those books that you just cant put down and read over the course of a day then youll know how I read this one. Every five minutes spare I picked up this book and five minutes was soon half an hour and I basically lost a day!
Written over 310 pages, the book is in 9 parts. Commencing in April 1996 it spans a tragic year in the life of the Barrets.
Each chapter is just entitled as the name of a character and we see the story through their eyes.
From the first sentence there is a sense of tradegy and indeed in this first short chapter Karen Barretts life is changed forever when her three year old daughter Sherry is involved in a hit and run with a lorry.
This story certainly had me crying from the off.
Hereon in, we meet the husband, Simon Barrett who turns to his lover for comfort.
The Barretts are told that there is no hope for their daughter, the life support should be turned off. I have to admit that as I read how Karen slipped onto the bed with her daughter to hold her as they switch off the machine, I was choking back tears.
But miracles do occur and Sherry doesnt slip away although neither does wake.
Sherry is taken home to be cared for by her parents. The stress is too much and Simon moves out.
It was the home help that first realised that being with Sherry was curing her arthritis and she calls her dying sister to visit, believing that Sherry can cure her.
Meanwhile we also see the lives of other people that were affected by the accident. The driver of the lorry, Henry, a father himself, attempts suicide but doesnt seem able to die. Instead he finds himself somewhere between this world and the next, invisible to the living but tortured by what happened. What must he do to free himself from this limbo?
As word of Sherry's powers spread, her parents must decide how best to keep their daughter safe but also help the many sick and dying who are flocking to be at her side.
This book touches on religion, miracles, faith, science, supernatural and science. It is definately not my usual chick lit but page-turning none-the-less.
Before I Wake is Robert J Wiersema's first novel and I will definately recommend it. In fact Im about to read it again.