by Barbara Forte Abate
Publisher: Halcyon Moon
Publication date: September 18, 2012
Genre: Literary fiction
Purchase*: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository
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 only 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 Bodie, 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. 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. A 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.Barbara Forte Abate’s writing style has always delighted me and I was pleased to accept an arc of Asleep Without Dreaming. Abate took me on a coming of age journey at the Moonglow motel with fleshed out characters and a look at life in a forgotten town. I quickly became caught up in this slow moving tale and let her words carry me away.
We meet protagonist fourteen year old Willa Burkett and her mother Stella, as they leave the town of Hoosick Falls in a dilapidated car with a cardboard window flapping in the wind. We learn this is a spur of the moment decision by Stella after a series of vengeful incidents occur. Twenty-four hours later, in the middle of nowhere USA, their car breaks down. A kindly man drops them off in the closet town and the Moonglow motel. When the car cannot be fixed, they find themselves stuck in this decaying long forgotten town, where nothing happens; that is until now. Here Willa meets Jesse Truman, a boy with the most beautiful indigo eyes. Between an arsonist, the colorful owner of the Moonglow and the ever charming antics of her mother; Willa will have her world rocked to the core.
Abate always provides us with the most colorful, fleshed out characters and this book was no exception. I found Willa fascinating and the mother in me just wanted to hug her. This summer would forever define her life and I enjoyed the journey. Her relationship with her mother, Stella was completely dysfunctional. The roles of parent and child was often reversed. Stella longs for something more and is selfish. I loathed her at times and sympathized with the life she has. I understand the loop she was trapped in. I could never overcome my feelings with regard to how she treated Willa and therefore she was my least favorite character. Omega Pearl Bodie the proprietor of the Moonglow, brilliantly captured the town busybody and shed truth on townsfolk turning a blind eye. Jesse Truman was a bit of a puzzle, but the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. The romance was sweet, fragile, and tragic. It showed the budding of a young girl’s feelings. An escaped convict named Norman Hitchcock and an arsonist add to the tale.
The poignant tale Abate weaves unfolds like a slow, hot southern afternoon. This is a heartwarming tale with characters you become invested in. Glimpses into Willa's mind, hear heart and thoughts was so surreal. While the pace is slow, the journey and its moments are enthralling as you read what transpires over this long lazy summer. With her pen, Abate paints the landscape surrounding the Moonglow. I could see the decay of the small town, the neglected flowerbeds, and the overgrown weeds. I could smell the fouled lake and feel the sun beating down on Willa’s face. Everything from the buildings to the people had a feel of being forgotten and used up. I was captivated by the mystery surrounded the escaped convict, the arsonist and Jesse. It was amazing seeing how all the different threads wove together in this beautiful, heartbreaking novel.
I highly recommend Asleep Without Dreaming to fans of literary fiction and character driven novels about coming of age. I enjoy this author and the places she takes me. I recommend that you check out her novel The Secret of Lies.
I want to thank the author for providing this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.
I gave this novel 5 cups of coffee out of 5
My review of Secret of Lies