Halcyon Moon Books|September 11, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 9780615685489
Fourteen-year-old, Willa Burkett, has been waiting her whole life to leave Hoosick Falls, a nowhere place that fails to hold even a single good memory. But, when a series of vengeful incidents stir Willa’s mother Stella to impulsively pack-up and go, it is to find themselves stranded in yet another ugly, near extinct town, only now, with a broken down car and no ready way out. Unable to move on until an alternate plan shows itself, they accept a job working for Omega Pearl Brodie, proprietress of the Moonglow motel a long forgotten, steadily decaying relic, where mostly nothing happens, except now, when everything does.
It is here in this place of desperate loneliness and restless boredom that Willa will have her world rocked to the core in ways she doesn’t immediately comprehend or understand. The craziness of the life she’s left behind all but eclipsed by the dark turn of the here and now, as Willa attempts to keep one step ahead of the ever-twisting whims of a mother prone to keeping secrets and telling lies, a murderous arsonist returned to the scene of his earlier crimes to dole out revenge one fiery victim at a time, and Jesse Truman. An unknowable boy with indigo eyes that Omega Pearl has hired as handyman at the Moonglow, who Willa longs to save, if only she understood what it is he needs saving from.
Asleep Without Dreaming is an immensely powerful story. Fourteen-year-old Willa Burkett moves with her mother, Stella, from Hoosick Falls to the small, rotting town of Harriet’ Bluff. They were originally heading to California but when their car breaks down this is where they ended up. Willa’s father, Martin, left the home and marriage for parts unknown.
Willa and Stella end up in a room at the Moonglow owned and run by the nosey, over- bearing Omega Pearl Brodie. Omega offers Stella a housekeeping job for a very small salary and free accommodations. However, the extremely small pay won’t allow Stella to save money fast enough to vacate Harriet’s Bluff anytime in the near future.
Stella is an uncaring, self-absorbed woman who does nothing for anyone but herself – everything she does is for personal gain. She doesn’t have one loving, self-repecting bone in her body and no love, respect or trust in anyone else. She constantly dreams up money making schemes that will profit only her and keeps all the money while poor Willa, her very own flesh and blood, starves unless she herself picks fruit and vegetables from unsuspecting neighbour’s backyards.
Willa is a bright, intelligent girl who has a wisdom beyond her years and I wish I could have reached through the pages of the story to tell her that she “mattered” and that she has a lot to give this world. She was constantly berated by her mother, Stella, and missed her father, Martin. She always hopes that he will return.
Throughout the story we deal with Norman Hitchcock, a former criminal who has returned to town to exact revenge on the townsfolk one person at a time by setting fire after fire after fire. He is an arsonist extraordinaire. He moves throughout the story like a ghost behind the scenes. You’re never constantly aware of him in the forefront of your mind but at the same time, the suspense of waiting for him to pop up again is palpable. You just know he’s there, but WHERE??
Omega hires, Jesse Truman, a young man who does the handywork around the Moonglow. When Willa meets Jesse she really likes him and for the first time in her life feels wanted and needed by someone but that proves, as you’ll see, to be a fruitless endeavour on her part. I’ve never felt more sorry for kid in all my life. Willa deserved so much better from everyone in her life, especially her mother, Stella. She doesn’t deserve the horrendous and horrible person that Stella is.
The ending was absolutely and totally unexpected. I DID NOT see THAT coming!! Never before have I read a novel where the ending so shocked and surprised me…Barbara Forte Abate is a phenomenal author who deserves to be there with the big names. If you want a totally engaging read that will stop your heart and make you feel emotions you didn’t even know you had, then Asleep Without Dreaming should be next on your to be read list. Thank you Barbara for a most entertaining read!