Imagine waking up each day and not recognizing the bed your laying in, the room that surrounds you or the man sleeping just inches away? You furtively sneak to the bathroom thinking you’re simply waking up after a one-night-stand, a little hazy on the details of the happenings of the previous night. Upon looking in the bathroom mirror the image reflected back isn’t the twenty-year old you, as your mind is thinking, but a forty or fifty year old version instead. Somehow your life has jumped ahead twenty some odd years, and you have no idea what has occurred in the years, or even day prior. That is the case of the protagonist, Christine, in S.J. Watson’s novel, ‘Before I Go To Sleep‘.
I wrapped up this book a few days ago, after receiving it on loan from a co-worker and I am still reeling from the conversations her and I continue to have about the novel. Watson’s portrayal of a woman suffering from traumatic amnesia after a horrific accident lands her in a coma, eventually awaking and experiencing a rapid decline in her short-term memory retention was so perfectly laid out it was like I was witnessing a close relative experiencing the emotions. The story gripped me instantly, from the first few pages, until the very last word of the book. I simply couldn’t put it down, desperately yearning to learn what would Christine would uncover about her life next, and wondering would she even remember it the next day. Naturally, Watson adds continuous layers to the main plotline that kept me turning the pages, with unexpected twists to the storyline when I least expected it.
The concept of value in a human life is constantly challenged, and spoken aloud by the lead character, as she wrestles with the desire to go on living a life where she is constantly explained every miniscule detail of her existence. Her husband, Ben, stays tirelessly by her side as a constant source of happiness, light and love. For him alone my heart was breaking, constantly reminding a woman who doesn’t remember meeting you that you are in fact married, she loved you at one point in your life, and the marriage vows are the biggest form of commitment to uphold. Outstanding and tragic all in one thought. Throughout the course of the book it becomes apparent that Ben has the ability to define the elements Christine will get to relive each day, as events regarding her accident, their children, and her previous career all have their positive and negative effects. His desire to keep her happy, yet share the intimate details of their lives, is a constant tug-of-war of emotion and self sacrifice.
I often found myself holding the book against my chest, reflecting on the strength that Ben had to find in himself to continue to support his wife throughout this ordeal, for over two decades. I hope I would have the strength to endure that same ordeal to forever stay with the one person I love the most. I equally hope that the universe never deals me such a difficult challenge, and my deepest respect goes out to those individuals who are living this very same reality.
As mentioned, ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ takes a series of twists throughout the plot, some incredibly interesting and a few that left me, as a reader, complete baffled. The last fifty pages had me talking out loud AT THE PAGES, practically screaming at the characters in disbelief!
The very last sentence of the book was simply perfection, in the art of wrapping up a story yet leaving the reader wanting more.
In this particular instance, I am not going to include the write up from the back cover of the book as I feel it reveals too much about the story and leads readers down a particular path.
If you’re interested in learning more about the book, and the author, check out his website.
I’ll admit, that was the final surprise of the novel – the author is male! Throughout the book I fully imagined I was reading the words of a female writer, as the depiction of Christine’s emotions and thoughts felt incredibly organic. I was pleasantly surprised when I hoped to the page about the author after finishing the book and saw his face next to the bio.
I strongly encourage you to pick this book up if you haven’t already read it! You won’t be disappointed!