Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hoping for Insomnia

I truly enjoy our book club, but I do have one peeve related to it.  Not all the selections are widely available at a reasonable price.  Before suggesting a book, I try to make sure that the county library system owns several copies and that it can be purchased in paperback or used online.  I for one can't afford to buy a new hardcover every month.  However, not everyone in the group seems to check.

This fall, for instance, one of the newer novels was so hard to get that I finally downloaded the Nook app for my smartphone and bought the e-version.  Alas, the screen on my smartphone is so small that I could only see about a paragraph at a time and gave up in disgust.  Now that I own a real Nook, though, I was finally able to finish the book - Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson - and I'm glad I did.

Christine Lucas suffered severe head trauma in her late 20's.  Now 47, she wakes every morning with no memory of her life since the injury and only spotty recollections from before it occurred.  Her husband, Ben, has taped labeled photos in the bathroom for her reference and uses a scrapbook to explain their life to her every day.  Every night, sleep erases what she has relearned until Christine is contacted by Dr. Nash, a neuropsychologist specializing in brain disorders, who suggests that she keep her own journal to write down the things she does remember and the things she's been told.  Over the course of the book, the journal and her conversations with those around her start to rebuild some of her shattered memories.

Unfortunately, as her memories and sense of self grow stronger, so does Christine's unease.  Why does Ben lie to her about the existence of their son?  Why doesn't he want her to contact her old friends or seek further treatment?  And just what caused those head injuries, anyway - could Christine still be in danger?

This is one of the most unusual mysteries I have ever read, and I loved it.  Partly inspired by Forever Today: A Memoir of Love and Amnesia, Deborah Wearing's memoir of her amnesiac husband Clive, Before I Go to Sleep is far more immediate and realistic than the usual "hit on the head amnesia" novel.  I'm even over my snit at having to pay retail for it.

"I was born tomorrow
today I live
yesterday killed me."
~ Parvis Owsia, Epigraph (quoted at the beginning of Before I Go to Sleep)

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