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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: The Dreamers

The Dreamers - Karen Thompson Walker

I will probably forever associate author Karen Thompson Walker with the number “one million.” It's a fairly big number and it's also quite a lot for the author to live up to. If you didn't know, Walker's debut novel, The Age of Miracles, was the subject of a bidding war that garnered an advance of over one millions dollars. This is a substantial amount of money for any novelist who is not a household name, but particularly for one who is a debut novelist. Surely, there was pressure on Walker to deliver a million dollar book with The Age of Miracles—do you think it's made that back yet?—but there also must be continued pressure to deliver on subsequent efforts.

My feelings toward The Dreamers isn't all that different from The Age of Miracles, to be honest. Karen Thompson Walker is quite the writer actually. She has a way with language. It is simple, yet lulling. Poetic, but generally not cloying (except for most mentions of “the fetus”). The result is a book that can almost lull you asleep. For some readers, that's a bad thing. For others, it's a plus. Yet it surprises me that such a language-centric author would pull in such a huge advance.

So there's language, but there's also plot. With both of Walker's books, there's a really great idea at the core. The story could really drive the language, but I don't know that it does. In both novels, the pace sometimes slows considerably. I'm okay with these things, but I still don't know how she received such a—

Okay, so like I said, I cannot disassociate Walker with that number. Maybe someday I will, but I doubt it. Putting all that aside, my feelings are this: Entering either of these novels, I immediately was pulled in, by the brilliance of the language and the plot; the longer the story goes, however, the less gripping the plot becomes, the more the prose takes over; in the end, I can say that I enjoyed the novel, but I cannot say that I particularly loved the story, though elements, specific scenes, continue to haunt my memory. The Age of Miracles andThe Dreamers were both elusive stories, but difficult to shake completely—much like a dream. the Dreamers: an apt title for Walker's sophomore effort.