Book club discussion questions-Sleepwalker By Chris Bohjalian


by Chris Bohjalian

PBR Book Review:

(by- Linda )One thing is certain - pick up a Chris Bohjalian book and you are in for something original. This time, he brings his unique perspective and style to the condition of sleepwalking. And while the story revolves around a young woman searching for answers on her missing mother, who is a sleepwalker, it is also full of psychological suspense and family drama. Although familiar with sleepwalking, I was surprised that the symptoms could manifest themselves in so many ways. Aside from walking - Annalee also craved sex in her sleep and would stop at nothing to satisfy this craving; a condition I was not familiar with. A very engaging book, sure to satisfy book clubs and the curious.

Book Club Talking Points:

Like any disease, sleepwalking takes its toll on family. The author delves deep into the trauma and denial that happens when someone you love goes missing. After her mother's disappearance, Lianna leaves school to care for her sister and father. The fairness of this and why her father allowed it will also be a good discussion topic; as will her relationship with the detective. And of course the topic of sleepwalking is well researched in this book and a fascinating topic.

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*Discussion Questions

1. What were your initial theories about Annalee's disappearance? As the characters reacted to the evidence, what did they reveal about themselves?

2. When you read Annalee's emails, along with reminiscences of her, what were your impressions? What was it like to get to know her through Lianna's eyes?

3. Does Warren's career as a literature professor (specializing in poetry, no less) enhance his ability to cope with his wife's sleepwalking, or is science the only way to understand it?

4. How does the relationship between Lianna and Paige compare to the relationship between you and your siblings? What determines whether siblings will take care of each other or become rivals?

5. Spoiler alert! Lianna looks like her mother and takes on some of Annalee's responsibilities even though she is only twenty-one years old. Is it ethical for thirty-three-year-old Gavin to date Lianna, or is he the key to her healing?

6. The author provides detailed images of how a missing person's body might look after being ravaged by a river. How did this description affect you? Does the physical body or the psyche or the soul play the primary role in making us who we are?

7. The Sleepwalker takes place in the year 2000, just before the dawn of smart phones and the profusion of social media. How does this make for a better storyline?

8. Lianna has a talent for magic. Why is she drawn to creating illusions, and to being in control of the reality behind them?

9. As the Ahlbergs confront the role of genetics in their family tragedy, what issues are raised about the heart of our identities? Are the Ahlberg girls shaped more by nature or nurture?

10. Spoiler alert! How did you react as you read about the court cases of defendants who were sleepwalking (and the sexual assault accusations Gavin faced when he was younger, described on page 177)? Who is responsible for protecting society from the crimes of a sleepwalker?

11. How would you describe the portrait of a marriage that emerges in the novel? How was trust formed and tested between Annalee and Warren? Did secrecy strengthen or weaken their relationship?

12. In the end, when the meaning of the italicized passages became clear, what did you discover about the nature of guilt? Could anything have prevented Annalee's disappearance?

13. Spoiler alert! What does sexsomnia tell us about the human sex drive? When Lianna has sleep sex with Gavin for the first time, is she having an encounter with his true self?

14. What surprising facts did you learn about sleepwalking, and sleep in general, as you read this novel? If you were a sleepwalker, what would your strongest impulses be?

15. In a review for Library Journal, Barbara Hoffert observed that Chris Bohjalian "never writes the same book twice. From the rural Vermont-set Midwives to the historical The Sandcastle Girls to the close-at-hand dystopia of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, he charts crucial moments in different settings and with different sensibilities." Although he is a master of variety, what common strands appear in his depictions of humanity? How did The Sleepwalker enhance your experience of other Bohjalian novels?

Discussion questions provided by the publisher.

Book Summary
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room comes a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire-the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night.

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective.

And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?

Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers.
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