Before I Wake
Injured by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street, Sherry Barrett lies in a hospital where her doctors say she will never wake up. Her distraught parents, Karen and Simon, make the painful decision to take her off life support. But when they do, Sherry spontaneously begins breathing on her own, the first of many miraculous events to occur.
Henry Denton, the driver who struck Sherry, is haunted by the accident and attempts to take his own life, only to be saved by an unexplained force. Sherry’s nurse discovers that the little girl has the power to heal. When word of her gift leaks, the sick begin lining up to be saved and a mysterious stranger sets his sights on vanquishing the believers and the Barretts.
Before I Wake delicately brings together grandiose leaps of faith with the fragility of every day moments. There’s a fly-on-the-wall quality in Wiersema’s observations, as his realistically flawed characters struggle with guilt, self-loathing and belief while they go about their daily lives. The novel’s fractured narrative style is propulsive and unexpected at every turn, and succeeds in raising questions about times of great faith, and what happens when they happen to the most unlikely of people.
“I believe in miracles — we see them around us all the time,” Wiersema says. “I believe in not having the answers, in there being forces beyond our understanding.”
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
That one phrase haunts a parent when something tragic happens to their child. It echoes in the mind like an accusation. Or a curse.
“I only turned my back for a second, but somehow he managed to reach the handle of the frying pan . . .”
1. The concept of sacrifice is explored in different ways in Before I Wake. Which character do you think made the biggest sacrifice?
2. Discuss when Karen, Simon, Ruth, Henry and Mary each experienced guilt and how did they deal with it?
3. When reading Before I Wake, did you come up with any...
“We go along for this unusual ride – that takes us to purgatory and awakens images of the inquisition – because we trust Wiersema’s consummate skill: a talent that makes him one of our most promising and original voices.”
–The Gazette (Montreal)
"…rivetting debut novel…Wiersema has crafted a literary, supernatural thriller that grips the reader in a chokehold on page one and doesn’t let go until the very last line…Before I Wake is a classic thriller: creepy in all the right places and deliciously suspenseful. Beyond that, it has great emotional depth and resonance."
–The Globe and Mail
"Before I Wake is a stunning debut. Robert Wiersema's novel is original, thought-provoking and downright wonderful."
–Michael Connelly, author of The Closers and The Lincoln Lawyer
"Through a tale that is both intimate and profound, Robert J. Wiersema reminds us there is magic in truth, and truth in the fantastic. Before I Wake is an edge-of-your-seat debut that is never faint of heart."
–Ami McKay, author of The Birth House
"I wept over this book as I read it, and I'm still haunted by it. Wiersema’s compassion for us all shines through in writing that is vivid and very often disturbingly powerful. He is a beautiful writer, and this is a beautiful book."
–Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Cure for Death by Lightning, A Recipe for Bees and A Rhinestone Button
"I read this book in less than three days, over the Christmas holidays with a house full of family and friends, and every time I had to put it down, I found myself compiling lists of people for whom I wanted to buy it. It captured me from the opening page and kept me going, wanting more, because it is a wonderful story, superbly told. The tight, tersely written chapters with their constantly changing points of view had me totally enthralled, because the characters are all utterly believable; every one of them rings true, with no miscues. A wonderful novel from a storyteller who knows what being a master of the craft entails."
–Jack Whyte, author of the Dream of Eagles series
"Inventively told using cinematic jump cuts and fantastical interventions, Before I Wake provocatively dances along the lines between faith and science, life and death. Robert Wiersema’s first novel shows a writer possessed with the kind of storytelling instincts that make you care about the answer to the one question that really counts: What happens next?"
–Andrew Pyper, author of The Wildfire Season