Friday, April 24, 2020

Review: THE DREAMERS by Karen Thompson Walker

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Dreamers is the perfect novel to read right now if you actually want to read about being quarantined because of a mysterious illness.

A contagious sleeping disease spreads across Southern California and people are scared. There is mention of quarantine, shops and schools closing, people instructed to wear masks, no touching others, “five feet apart at all times.” Does this sound familiar? I didn’t even realize that this book was about an epidemic but I certainly chose an apt time to read it!

I’ve always been interested in what happens in dreams and in books about dreams, which was why I originally wanted to read The Dreamers. But this book isn’t really about dreams, not exactly.

People fall asleep and stay asleep for days, unable to be woken up. Everyone is scared they will catch this disease. Doctors and scientists don’t know what’s going on, but they do know that the sleepers are having heightened brain activity, more than has ever been recorded before: crazy dreams are taking place. What could the sleepers possibly be dreaming about?

The story follows a few different families and how they each are affected by what’s going on. There are a lot of characters in this book, but we don’t fully get to know any of them. This is a book more about what’s happening than about who it’s happening to, and showing the family portraits helps make the story more personal.

It is eerily uncanny how similar the beliefs and situations are in this book to our world in early 2020. First, people are skeptical. No one believes they will really get sick.
“If this thing were really spreading, would the neighbors be raking their lawns? Would the mailman be delivering catalogs?”
Then the conspiracy theories begin and people start freaking out.
“Think about it, they say: Do you really believe that a completely new virus could show up in the most powerful country on earth without scientists knowing exactly what it is? They probably engineered it themselves. They might be spreading this thing on purpose, testing out a biological weapon. They might be withholding the cure.”
And then we have people trying to figure out how so many people are dying.
“Maybe they’re killing everyone in town to stop the epidemic.”
This was truly a fascinating book. If I had read it when it was published last year then I’d say it predicted the future. But now, I feel like I was inspired to read it at this time. It gives a good look at situations like the one we’re facing today with COVID-19 and how widespread diseases impacts society. We do not see economic repercussions in this book as the disease lasts only a few months and affects only one town, but it is still an interesting comparison, especially when we realize that some rash decisions characters make in this book are still more sane than what some people are doing in the read world.

I would definitely recommend reading The Dreamers, but you decide for yourself if this is the perfect time to read it or the perfectly wrong time to read it. It’s ethereal and beautifully written and a story that I will be returning to in the future.

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