The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin (2 out of 5)
It’s the late 90’s when Sylvie Patterson, a quiet, academic student at a California boarding school, meets and falls head over heels for her mysterious, effusive classmate Gabe. Complete opposites do often, and in this case, totally attract and they bank on a relationship, while many of their friends are falling in and out of love the way some fall in and out of jobs. The head of the school, Dr. Adrian Keller, is an enigmatic, somewhat eccentric and secretive medical professional who does research into (as well as banking everything, including his reputation), on the healing powers of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming? What is lucid dreaming, you may ask? Teaching those who are sleeping to become conscious during normal sleep patterns, which should relieve stress, chaos, and emotional, physical, and mental traumas that they have been battling in their normal, waking hours. Sounds like a lot? The premise is great, it’s just the execution of it that lost this reader somewhere toward the beginning of the book. Yes, the beginning. That’s when you know it’s a tough sell.
The duo become trusted hands to Dr. Keller, following, eating, sleeping, and yes, dreaming his every moment of research and discovery over a number of years following the good doc while he tries to sway the medical community, among others, to hop on the bandwagon with his research and results. Keller heads off to the quiet woods of the East Coast, and of course his dilletantes Sylvie and Gabe follow him out there. The dream caravan ends up in the Midwest and a strange fascination with their neighbors leads Sylvie and Gabe into a strange situation with the good doc. Sylvie begins to snap out of her reverie (brainwashing, that’s what it seems like to me, at least) when they begin a friendship with the couple, questioning what Dr. Keller’s “research” really does and whether it brings harmony or harm. Sylvie and Gabe’s relationship may not survive this newest challenge, as she begins to question more often than not, driving a wedge in between her and Gabe. Dr. Keller, to my eyes at least, seems like he exerts a Svengali-type influence over Gabe. There are points in the book where I questioned whether there was a relationship between the two men that extended beyond mentor and student. There are points in the book where I questioned, well, everything. Sylvie, instead of rousing my pom-poms in a cheer when she starts to wake the hell up, annoyed me. I’m not sure why. It’s a hard book to roll through once you have decided that you really don’t want to see how it turns out, unless the doc gets his comeuppance. Does he? Do Sylvie and Gabe make it out of this intact, or does he get a room at the Motel 6 with “Dr. Dream”? What role do the neighbors play in the unraveling of the doctor’s medical showboat? What, if anything, keeps you rolling on toward the end?
So, to sum it up, a great premise that starts out promising, but the characters begin to drive you crazy. I had a ton of hope for Sylvie, I was hoping once she woke up, I would start to really dig into this story. I did, and I finished it, but it wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped, and it didn’t ring any happy bells for me when I did get to the finish line. Something is just off here, in this book. It is well written, it clips along at a good rate, and you want to read it to see what exactly the doctor is doing, and if he gets what’s coming to him. You also want to see if Gabe and Sylvie live happily ever after. I just wanted to see it end, regrettably. It didn’t do a lot for me.