Title: When All the World Sleeps
Authors: Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock
Narrator: Greg Tremblay
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Run Time: 12 hours and 11 minutes
Category: Contemporary, Drama
At a Glance: Lots of angst and populated with complex and compelling characters, this story makes you work for the ending.
Reviewed By: Cassie
Blurb: Daniel Whitlock is terrified of going to sleep. And rightly so; he sleepwalks, with no awareness or memory of his actions. Including burning down Kenny Cooper’s house – with Kenny inside it – after Kenny brutally beat him for being gay. Back in the tiny town of Logan after serving his prison sentence, Daniel isolates himself in a cabin in the woods and chains himself to his bed at night.
Like the rest of Logan, local cop Joe Belman doesn’t believe Daniel’s absurd defense. But when Bel saves Daniel from a retaliatory fire, he discovers that Daniel might not be what everyone thinks: killer, liar, tweaker, freak. Bel agrees to control Daniel at night – for the sake of the other townsfolk. Daniel’s fascinating, but Bel’s not going there.
Yet as he’s drawn further into Daniel’s dark world, Bel finds that he likes being in charge. And submitting to Bel gives Daniel the only peace he’s ever known. But Daniel’s demons won’t leave him alone, and he’ll need Bel’s help to slay them once and for all – assuming Bel is willing to risk everything to stand by him.
Review: I always get really excited when I see a book longer than ten hours on audio because that’s more time I get to spend immersed in the world of the story. In this case, the twelve-plus hours of When All The World Sleeps are an emotional marathon. There’s a ton of emotional and psychological labor going on for these characters, and the events recounted in the story are intense and charged. It takes a lot of stamina on the part of the reader to make it through to the end. Greg Tremblay’s spot-on narration only makes it harder. There’s no skimming the difficult parts (a bad habit of mine). You live it all right alongside the characters as Tremblay brings them to life.
The writing here is excellent, the characters complex and compelling. Though you should be prepared—even the main characters aren’t always likeable. They’re totally sympathetic and heartbreaking, but not always likeable. This fact doesn’t detract from the story at all, but don’t go into this expecting a warm, cozy love-fest. That is not what this book is. As the category indicates, it’s a drama. It’s not softened by comedy or even by the romance component of the storyline. So if that’s your style, this book is going to be a rare and memorable treat.
I have really complex feelings about how to sum up my experience of this book. It was very hard for me to finish. Not because it wasn’t good—it’s excellent—but because it’s very intense. You can feel the desperation Daniel lives in daily. He hardly sleeps, for very good reason, and the shattering emotional toll that takes on him is so tangible it’s practically another main character in the book. As a reader, I felt like I was experiencing some of Daniel’s psychosis right alongside him. For much of the book, it seems like there are no good choices for him anywhere, and the sense of suffocation is acute. It charges Bel and Daniel’s relationship with this electric, nearly manic, sense of urgency. It’s a lot of pressure to put on something so new, and watching the two men navigate that is tense. You want it to work SO. BADLY.
Greg Tremblay does a truly spectacular job here. He’s always wonderful, but these characters have unusual emotional and psychological depths that Tremblay excellently expresses in his narration. For example, he does a lovely and nuanced performance with Daniel’s accent. It’s stronger at times and subtler at others, depending on the character’s mood and state of mind—a subtle bit of writing that Tremblay executes well with his voice. He also does a great job with the accents, in general. That vaguely country accent that isn’t quite southern but is typical of rural/small-town America can be obnoxious when played for stereotypes or laughs. Tremblay speaks it truthfully while keeping it subtle enough not to grate on the ears. It’s really well done.
If you’re in the mood for angst or drama, this book is for you. If complex characters overcoming painful histories is your thing, look no further. Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock are going to put you through it and make you earn the ending on this one. It’s definitely worth it, and I guarantee this is one of those stories that will stick with you for a very long time.
You can buy When All the World Sleeps here: