Newest Review: ... is left in a permanent vegetative state with no chance of recovery and so essentially hovering in the limbo that exists between life and de... more
Before I Wake: Intriguing - yet falls a little short of the mark.
Before I Wake - Robert J. Wiersema
Member Name: kama0529
Before I Wake - Robert J. Wiersema
Advantages: Interesting concept. Tells story from different perspectives. Fairly unique. Debut novel.
Disadvantages: Just falls short of the mark as needs a little more explanation.
"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.