The Dreamers: Karen Thompson Walker


Karen Thompson Walker’s The Dreamers is a hauntingly beautiful tale of the mysterious sleeping disease that ravages a small California college town.

The sleeping sickness begins on the tenth floor of a dorm room with a young woman, six weeks into her freshman year of college. From there, it spreads quickly and efficiently throughout Santa Lora. It causes its victims to fall into a deep, seemingly unending sleep full of heightened dreams.

We follow several Santa Lora citizens’ lives while the sickness travels through the town: Mei and Matthew, college freshmen; Catherine, a psychiatrist brought in from out of town to care for the sick; Ben and Annie and their newborn Grace, a young family new transplanted from Brooklyn; Sara and Libby, young girls whose single father is a survivalist; and Nathaniel, a professor at the college.

Who will succumb to the sleeping sickness? What is happening in their dream-ridden sleeps, and will they ever wake up? Walker tells the captivating story of how sickness travels and affects its victims, and of the powerful nature of dreams.

Content Warnings

Please take caution while reading The Dreamers if any of the following topics may trigger you:

  • Death / dying
  • Pregnancy / childbirth

My Thoughts

The Dreamers is one fantastic piece of fiction. Not only is the story exceptionally interesting, but the writing is so unique – almost hypnotic. Walker lulls you into a reading rhythm that carries you through the story, told by an omniscient third person.

Walker’s use of third-person narration is so important to the success of the story, allowing for thoughtful musings on dreams, illness, and other lived experiences. It also allows the story to maintain the same pace and voice throughout, even when switching regularly between all of the main characters’ experiences with the sickness. Speaking of, knowing everyone’s personal experience is so valuable and exponentially heightens the air of fear and fascination that the sickness elicits.

You can expect to be very intrigued by the origin and anatomy of the sickness – where it came from, how it spreads, what happens to the victims as they’re asleep, and how the town and United States government responds to the sickness. Beyond the obvious fascination with the sickness, however, each person’s story is equally captivating. Their experiences tell of perseverance in times of crisis, sacrifice and love for your family, and the creation and continuation of life after trauma.

The Dreamers is about a sickness that puts its victims to sleep. But it’s also about so much more – the human experience. Walker’s beautiful and observant writing will captivate you, and the story will keep you fascinated through to the very end. I highly recommend this incredible novel.

Thank you so much for reading my thoughts on The Dreamers! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya.

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