A car crash. A falling body, and a foretelling dream manifested years earlier.
Dennis Sagebiel – a self-proclaimed hobo enjoys the danger of living on the edge, jumping train after train to his next destination. Ginnie, a young girl eager to drive her new car, and Carl an ex-navy Seal, loving husband and father have their lives sealed together when fate intervenes. Each action leading to a reaction that takes them on a road heading for disaster.
At first glance I wasn’t sure what to expect from the beginning of the book. From a train-hopping hobo Dennis, to Ginny Gillespie – a young girl yearning to make her way in life, and Carl Fickland – a lecturer at a community college. Are they all connected in some way?
Three characters are rapidly introduced through a summary exposition of their life, without giving away their significance to the part they play in the story. The first part of the story focuses on building up the characters by going into the background of their lives, and the decisions they make that have impacted their present.
Carl seems the most complex of the other characters mentioned. Facing a possible scholarship that his grades couldn’t live up to, and a four-year stint in the Navy, to returning to civilian life. Narrated flashbacks draw the reader into the life of the complex Carl. From a 6-figure earning executive, his life is changed forever with a mental health diagnosis that leads him to quit his job and return to studying philosophy. Then jumping to the present day, alluding to Carl’s foreshadowing of something bad to occur.
And then…? The characters are faced with a tragedy, somewhat expected, but still rather jolting. I hadn’t really connected with the characters at this point; however, it still took the story in a whole other direction.
Carl survives a bizarre accident that leaves him in a fugue state in which he can faintly hear voices but cannot communicate.
And then another surprise in the story. Drawing the into Carl’s distorted reality. Taking us further and further back into his life, and his ‘special abilities’ that eats away at him mentally the older he gets. Coming off as flaky, he cannot determine what or why he sees things the way he does.
There is a lot of in-depth portrayal of the main character and his life. Unfortunately, the story is bogged down a bit by the life of Carl, instead of the magnitude of the part he plays in the story. Sporadically, the story delves into the foreboding dreams Carl has. I was really curious to see where the story was heading, just not on the edge-of-my-seat in suspense.
Over half-way through the book and nothing much has actually happened, except covering Carl’s life and his brief discussions of the dreams he has. There are hints that his dreams are not your usual type of dream – traversing into dream state and another unexplainable state.
The short chapters help to push the story forward faster. However, the slow progression of the ultimate plot point prevents the story from being particularly compelling or suspenseful. With the story focusing in large part on the young Carl and his life, flashing to what he is dreaming about, it takes a bit too long to get to why all of this is actually important. And in a book under psychological thriller, I didn’t really feel I could get into the mind of the character, or care about what is going on.
Maybe I am old-fashioned, when I read a thriller, I expect some sort of murder or action that takes you on a ride of twists and turns. Unravelling complex characters and their motives, while small hints throughout enable the reader to gradually put the pieces of the puzzle together. In this case, the real life to dream sequence seems to be the main suspenseful aspect, without, well the suspense.
Carl goes through a lot of changes, and perhaps due to his dreams and the decisions he makes thereof sets him on a rather successful career and personal path.
It isn’t a bad book; it just reads more like a drama. Carl experiences love gained and lost, college, changes in career, sad times and happy times, and humour within the characters interwoven with dreams that make them all too real.
Reading a little more about the differences between literary and commercial fiction, I would say this book fits into the literary fiction. The characters are put first, with the reader needing to dig around a bit to figure out what the plot is all about. There isn’t much action, the focus is all around Carl, his life and dream sequences.
For those that enjoy literary fiction with in-depth character analysis, you might enjoy this read.
And now, I have started up a Podcast for my latest and older posts. If you prefer to listen to this review.