Welcome to the TLC Book Tour for Before I Go to Sleep
Christine Lucas wakes up each morning confused. She believes that she is a young woman in her twenties. She looks around her bedroom and it does not seem familiar, and is sometimes shocked to see that a man she does not recognize is in bed with her. As she finds her way to the bathroom and looks in the mirror, she is shocked to see the reflection of a forty-seven-year-old woman staring back at her. Her hands do not seem to belong to her, her body does not respond in the way she expects. Then she sees the photographs taped around the bathroom mirror, some of which bear names.
Her husband, Ben, explains to her yet again that they have been married for many years, are still in love, and very happy. Before he leaves for work, he writes reminders on a white board in the kitchen, telling Christine what household chores to perform during the day or, perhaps, that they will be going out in the evening so she should get ready before he returns.
Christine suffered head trauma that left her with amnesia. She is unable to make new short-term memories. Every night when she goes to sleep, everything that happened during the day is erased and she awakens the next morning unable to recollect what transpired the previous day. So each day, Ben painstakingly explains who he is, where they live, and that her condition was brought about as a result of a terrible accident many years ago.
Without Ben’s knowledge or approval, Christine has been seeing Dr. Ed Nash and, as a result of their work together, she is having flashbacks of memory. Dr. Nash encourages her to write in a journal each day, logging the bits and pieces of memory that she retrieves, as well as the information that is imparted to her by Ben. He has provided her with a cell phone and calls her each day to remind her about the journal’s existence and tell her where she has hidden it from Ben so that she can read it and create new entries.
But inside the front cover of the journal, in large red letters, Christine discovers the words “Don’t trust Ben.” As the days pass and she compares the things Ben tells her against what she has written in the journal on previous days, she realizes that he is lying about important aspects of her life, and omitting others, including the fact that Christine fulfilled her dream of being a writer and her first published novel was a success. Why is he lying to her and withholding important details about her past from her? And why did she make that notation? What really happened to her that caused her to lose her memory? Can she ever regain any portion of her memories and live a somewhat normal life?
S. J. Watson’s debut novel is a tautly constructed, emotionally stirring mystery with a unique and engrossing premise that will keep you guessing until the very end.
The story would have been far less captivating had Watson not chosen to present it as a first-person narrative. But with Christine telling the story from her exclusvie vantage point, the reader is drawn into the story from the very first paragraph:
The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don’t know where I am, how I came to be here. I don’t know how I’m going to get home.
I have spent the night here. . . .
. . .I hear a juddering intake of breath behind me and realize that I am not alone. I turn around. I see an expanse of skin and dark hair, flecked with white. A man. He has his left arm outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third finger of the hand. I suppress a groan. So this one is not only old and gray, I think, but also married. Not only have I screwed a married man, but I have done so in what I am guessing is his home, in the bed he must usually share with his wife. I lie back to gather myself. I ought to be ashamed.
Christine’s frustration is palpable, as day after day begins in exactly the same way. She cannot retain information from one day to the next, so every morning she awakens with a mind like a computer hard drive that has been reformatted, all of the previously stored data erased. She has only flashes of memory from time to time, such as being at a party during her college years with her best girlfriend whose face is familiar, but she can’t remember her name and has no idea what became of her in the ensuing years.
Watson takes his readers along with Christine on her journey of discovery as she works with the younger and attractive Dr. Nash, a neuropsychologist who is providing treatment free of charge as part of his research for a paper he is writing. It is Dr. Nash who suggests that she memorialize each day’s events and revelations in a journal so that the next day she can read her entries and, hopefully, eventually retain some information from day to day. Christine’s emotional roller-coaster is fascinating as she repeatedly experiences the same losses and heartbreaks anew. Her determination to solve the riddle that is her life history and improve the quality of her life is juxtaposed against her absolute vulnerability. Since she cannot remember where she lives or with whom for more than a few hours, she is utterly dependent upon Ben for her very survival. Without him, she would be back in the institution in which she resided for many years before Ben finally took her home to be with him.
To some extent, the book is about stories: telling stories, and what we believe to be true, and how we can be affected by things just because we believed that they happened — they don’t have to actually have happened.~ Author S. J. Watson
With each successive chapter, Christine pieces together more and more details about her life and, in the process, becomes increasingly suspicious of Ben. Her suspicions leave her feeling guilty, however. After all, she appreciates how frustrating it must be for him to live with her in her condition, constantly having to reacclimate her each day, and is appreciative of his patience, confident that he truly loves her. Still, even though she can rationalize and justify all of the lies Ben tells her and his failure to inform her about key aspects of her life, Christine cannot bring herself to fully trust him. Her inner dialogue about her conflicted feelings is heartbreakingly believable and propels the action forward as Christine searches for the truth.
Amnesiacs have a tendency to invent details of their lives in order to fill in the gaps in their memories. Compounding Christine’s quest for answers is the fact that she was a novelist before her traumatic brain injury, and she might creating memories, rather than actually recalling past events.
The character of Ben is crafted carefully, always saying and doing the right things. His motivations seem pure — he constantly reassures Christine that he loves her and they have been happy throughout their twenty-two-year marriage. Christine has no way of knowing if that is true, of course, because she cannot remember their wedding, much less the years between that day and this morning. Something is not quite right about Ben, but what is it exactly?
Everyone is a suspect, the plot twists and turns unexpectedly, and no clear answers emerge until the fast-paced and satisfying conclusion. You will find yourself determined to read the last page before going to sleep yourself. Before I Go to Sleep is a NY Times best-seller and the movie rights have been acquired by Ridley Scott. S. J. Watson’s life has been suddenly transformed by success . . . for good reason. I look forward to reading more from the incredibly talented first-time author.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Before I Go to Sleep free of charge from the author in conjunction with the TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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