Are You Sleeping: A Novel by Kathleen Barber


“Dude, have you heard about this Chuck Burhman murder thing?”

Blood roared in my ears, and my vision went blurry. It had been more than a decade since I had heard my father’s name, and hearing it casually tumble out of the mouth of a skinny teenager with a lip piercing made my stomach turn.

When a popular podcast re-opens an old murder case, Josie Burhman (the victim’s daughter) loses the safety of a reconstructed life she has created. Everything about her has been a lie, and her lover, Caleb hasn’t a clue. Her mother joined a strange cult long ago, her twin sister turned feral, destructive, was a toxin she had to flush out of her life. Now that her estranged mother has died, she has no choice but to leave her beautiful life in New York, return to her mid-western hometown to face the horror she fled. But she cannot let Caleb know, she could lose him. How can she face the past and confront the present farce of her life? In order to be free of the past, she had to reinvent herself, start from scratch, dissociate from the brutal shock.  If Warren, the awkward, teenager convicted of killing didn’t murder her father- who did?  He may have had a reason, as Josie’s father had secrets of his own.  Why would her twin sister lie about what she witnessed that night? She saw Warren Cave. Why is Poppy Parnell poking and prodding the past? A vulture!

Lanie and Josie used to be tightly knit, but with their father’s murder and mother’s abandonment Lanie went a bit mad. It was happening before, the party girl wildness. Returning home to her cousin and aunt, she isn’t prepared to see her sister, nor discover that she has built a life of her own, from discarded pieces of Josie’s former life. Josie’s cousin Ellen points out that she isn’t looking so great, but Lanie has cleaned up nicely. Betrayal digs deep into her heart, but everything is not as it seems, and Lanie’s grown up life is turning to rot. Maybe her sister needed her more than she knew, or is she just a liar? Something is seriously wrong. What about her mother, slowly peeling back her time with the cult, there seem to be more questions. Listening to the podcast, she is beginning to suspect things aren’t right, that maybe… maybe Warren Cave is innocent. But what does that mean for her family?

Traumatic events can play with your mind, and that terrifying night their father died has distorted memories and truths. But what is the truth? Will Josie ever know? Is Poppy just out to glamorize a tragedy better left in the past? Josie’s mother wasn’t solid, stable to begin with. The mother and her cult immersion was a unique spin but I wanted more of that. Josie’s beloved believes she returned home for her aunt’s funeral (her aunt who is very much alive) because after all, her own mother can’t die twice. Imagine his surprise when he decides to rush and be by her side to discover her mother is the one who died recently (not long ago) and that she has a twin sister! That her past involves a murder now on everyone’s lips, because of a podcast. Caleb discovers everything he believed about his woman is a lie.

Josie isn’t much different from her destructive damaged sister Lanie, nor from their mother. Didn’t she disappear too? Maybe wandering the world and reinvention isn’t the same as joining a cult, but do most functional people just shuck their identity? I can only speak for myself, if I were in Caleb’s shoes I’d be more horrified by the lies, brutal past or not. I think I felt more sorrow for Lanie, she was the one with the world and horror piled on her.

This was different, I found things I liked and things I scratched my head over.

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books




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