After a mysterious, silent child is found abandoned on the beach clutching a handheld video game, residents and tourists alike find themselves utterly unable to sleep. Exhaustion impairs judgment, delusions become hysteria, and mob rule explodes into shocking violence. Told from three perspectives: Chief of Police Mays tries to keep order, teenaged tourist Cort and her friends compete in a dangerous social media contest for the most hours awake, while local physician and former Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Sam Carlson battles his guilt over a student’s suicide and the blurriness of his own insomnia, to try to treat the sleepless—until he and the child must flee the violent mob that blames the child for the epidemic.
(From the blurb)
A word of warning- don’t read this thriller if you are experiencing sleep deprivation yourself. This book is so good in describing this state all too familiar to parents with young children that you will recognize its torture and empathize immediately. The story covers eight days, and although it is written in short chapters, I chose to read each day in its entirety and they seemed endless…
On a little touristy island of Carratuck a group of teenagers are playing a game: they are trying to stay sleepless for 48 hours. The participants send tweets every 15 minutes to let others know that they are still awake. Meanwhile an eight-year-old boy is found alone on the beach. He is obviously scared and refuses to talk. The local police chief Sam Mays suspects it is a misunderstanding and one of his divorced or separated parents is going to turn up and claim the child. He knows from experience that calling Child Services too early can turn out to be a legal nightmare for everybody involved. He asks the local doctor Sam Carlson give him a hand talking to and caring after the child. Just for a day. Sam used to be a famous psychiatrist in a different life before Garratuck, before he failed to save his patient from suicide. Everybody in this story has secrets of their own and feels guilty about something.
Garratuck is a holiday resort with bars and discos and plenty of noise. A sleepless night or even two is something people can easily explain, but when it becomes clear that nobody can sleep, Dr Sam’s clinic is suddenly full of people asking for pills, and there is no way to explain this epidemic. Sam is convinced this is a case of rare mass hysteria and sooner or later it will pass and sleep will come back, but not everybody agrees. Some people blame the Boy. After all, his appearance on the beach coincided with the beginning of the Great Sleeplessness. What if he is the reason while they all caught it?
The book is extremely visual and cinematographic in its nature. The premise of an insomnia epidemic is fascinating and plays on a very common experience and a very common fear of society collapse in the aftermath of a disease outbreak. Although I didn’t particularly feel close to any of the characters, I could relate to their growing tiredness and despair. The insomnia causes them behave in different ways, some angry and selfish, others kind and altruistic, as any serous life-threatening experience would.
Deprivation deals brilliantly with the topic of fear and mass psychology. It also shows how we are all interconnected and how much we influence each other with our words, actions, and gestures. So let them be kind with no exception.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Meerkat Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.