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Awake Hardcover – April 7, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Graver's gracefully written and emotionally rich third novel (after Unraveling and The Honey Thief) charts a year in the life of a New England family struggling with a heartbreaking burden: a child plagued by xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), an often fatal sensitivity to light. Max Simon, the second son of Anna, an artist, and Ian, a schoolteacher, can't go into the sun unless he's completely coveredâ€"even strong lamps can wreak havoc with his health. The closest the nine-year-old Max comes to anything approaching normality is when he, his older brother and parents go off to Camp Luna, a retreat for children with XP, where nights are for activities and daytimes are for sleeping. The camp's director, Hal, a caring, life-affirming widower whose daughter has XP, awakens something in the bitter and tired Anna. Alternating between the present and the past, Graver deftly if slowly sets the stage for the Simon family's return to Camp Luna, where Anna and Hal begin an affair with predictably difficult fallout. No one can doubt that Anna and her family have suffered, but some may find her insufficiently sympathetic; she's so hell-bent on soul searching that she becomes a bore, a poster child for the entitled baby-boomer, mad as hell that life hasn't turned out perfectly. Still, Graver's lyrical portrait of a thoughtful woman in crisis will resonate with many readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Raising a child with a life-threatening illness can strain any marriage, but Anna's and Ian's son, Max, has a particularly difficult disease to manage. Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) literally turns their world upside down. Fatally vulnerable to light, Max lives in a world others can't imagine: his day is everyone else's night; he's awake while the rest of the world sleeps. Fiercely protective of Max's health, Anna nonetheless longs to give him a sense of normalcy, and Camp Luna, a summer respite for XP children and their families, becomes both a dream-come-true and a living nightmare. While Max joyfully experiences acceptance among equals, Anna is forced to examine, and escape, her roles as wife and mother, facing a dilemma familiar to many women: how to give everything to her family without losing her own identity. Graver's sublimely honest first-person narrative powerfully imparts Anna's confusion with empathic sensitivity, compassionately depicting one woman's struggle to simultaneously retain and release the best parts of herself. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (April 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805065393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805065398
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,295,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Graver's fourth novel, The End of the Point, illuminates the powerful legacy of family and place, exploring what we are born into, what we pass down, preserve, cast off or willingly set free. Set in a summer community on Buzzard's Bay from 1942 to 1999, the book tells the story of one family and a place over half a century. Selected as one of ten books on the 2013 National Book Awards Long List in Fiction, The End of the Point received rave reviews from The New York Times and The Boston Globe and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Graver is the author of three other novels: Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling. Her short story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories (1991, 2001); Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards (1994, 1996, 2001); The Pushcart Prize Anthology (2001), and Best American Essays (1998). Her story "The Mourning Door" was awarded the Cohen Prize from Ploughshares Magazine. The mother of two daughters, she teaches English and Creative Writing at Boston College.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A big fan of Elizabeth Graver's, I've read everything she's written that I've been able to get my hands on. While I've enjoyed all of her work, AWAKE shows the way in which Graver keeps getting better. A story about a woman struggling to find happiness and wholeness of self in midlife, AWAKE beautifully captures the inner workings of the protagonist, Anna's, mind. But it's not just Anna that the reader gets to know, as Graver also brings to life Anna's family members (Ian, her husband, and her two boys), as well as friends and lovers from the past and present. The story kept me reading (you want to know where Anna's "awakening" will lead her), but so too did the prose itself. The sentences are REMARKABLE - so dense and flawlessly written, I found myself going back over some of them just to savor the words. Get this book! You won't regret it.
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By A Customer on May 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I read this novel in one sitting and was totally amazed by Elizabeth Graver's ability to capture the inner life of her narrator. The book starts out looking like it's going to be about raising a child with a serious illness, but it turns out to be about the mother--how much she both loves her family and yearns for parts of her old, pre-mother self; how she struggles with questions of identity and motherhood and love and marriage. The book is set at a camp where all activities take place at night (the sick son can't be in the dark), and the imagery is gorgeous. I've read Graver's other two novels and loved those, too, but I this one feels like her most mature and ambitious. And it's a GREAT read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the story of Anna, and her husband Ian,who had a

"normal life" with their oldest son Adam.But a few years pass

and they have a second son,Max,handicapped by a condition

called XP,due to a recessive gene,from each parent.Max cannot

be exposed to daylight.He may also, as he grows develop

cancerous tumors and die young.

Confronted with these problems,the structure of the family

seems to be coming apart.Anna,the mother,has put away her

talents to homeschool Max.

The emotions concerning her son,his condition,her thoughts,

are causing her to unravel.What she goes through is so deeply

overwhelming,only another mother or father of a handicapped

child can understand.It is called grief!

Anna is desperate to connect with someone,due to isolation.

When she approaches a best friend,a doctor who just gave

birth to one month old twins,there is no understanding.

This problem is so big and chronic,people don't want to hear

about it.

The previous year,the family had attended a special camp

for XP children and their families.At the camp,Anna comes

alive,there are others,just like Max,and she is becoming

attracted to the owner,leader(a widower)who has a daughter

with the XP gene.

It is hard to tear yourself from this book to read what

comes next?The writing is superb and the story must unfold.
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By Maria R. Varecka on December 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The story of Max with XP, the light sensitivity disease notwithstanding, Elizabeth Graver captured with such precise detail what is in the mind of the woman losing her identity in the day-to-day struggle of family life, it boggled my mind and I'm sure there are many women out there who related as well as I did. The spiril down when you haven't come first for so long, you don't recognize yourself in the mirror because you never take the time to look into it. Add to that the fact that it was so beautifully written, when I finished it, I wanted to start the book all over again. I found myself reading passages over.

I will lend this book to a friend, but I'll be selective because it's a book with a message. Let's not pass judgement.
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Format: Paperback
Anna is the mother of Max, who has a rare genetic disease called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) that results in light causing extreme pain and cancer. So he lives in the dark, and she does too, while her husband and other son thrive in the daylight. Attending an XP summer camp seems to a way to help Max experience a slice of normal life. But given the chance to relax, Anna is drawn to the camp founder.

When I first started reading this, I thought I'd get a chance to learn about XP. I only learned the bare bones because Max's story is not the focus. This story is all about Anna, who goes through a midlife crisis, depression, and commits infidelity, with all its repercussions.

The writing itself was beautiful. There were lots of beautiful phrases and descriptions. Very dreamy and image evoking. Which makes sense when you consider the story is told from the viewpoint of an artist. As I was reading, I kept thinking that the book was gray. If a book could be represented by a colour, this one would be grey, in all its varying shades. There is very little joy or happiness, mostly sadness and depression, which I guess I see as gray.

As a character, Anna was very self-absorbed and selfish, which I associated with a midlife crisis. She can't see past the mundane details of her life, and how unhappy she is. The only thing she seems to be able to think of is her desire to escape. This leads to bad decisions, and hurt feelings all around.

There were some graphic sex scenes, but not in the steamy, passionate sense. Fitting with the overall feel of the book, the scenes were factual and stark, which made them seem more vulgar.

Overall, this is not a light read. It is dark and depressing, and leaves a slightly bad feeling in your mouth. But if you look at the writing itself, it's beautiful. Quite a contrast filled book.
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