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Sleep Toward Heaven: A Novel Paperback – February 17, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060582294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060582296
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How do we forgive the unforgivable? First-time novelist Ward explores this question with a delicate blend of compassion, humor and realism. Three women whose lives converge during a stifling Texas summer have followed completely different paths in their 29 years. The horrendous childhood of death row inmate Karen Lowens led her to prostitution, drug abuse and finally murder. She now longs to find peace before her scheduled execution in the Gatestown, Tex., prison. She resists friendship, as "any connection, any tiny strand, will bind her to this world" from which she so wants to be freed. Franny Wren, Karen's prison doctor, is just as afraid to befriend Karen, knowing that she can't save her. She is fragile, having recently run out on her fiance and her life in New York City after the death of one of her cancer patients, a young girl, left her guilt-ridden and emotionally drained. Franny has returned to her childhood home in Gatestown, where she was raised by an uncle after her parents were killed by a drunk driver. Meanwhile, in Austin, Celia Mills, the only first-person narrator of the three, is the widow of Karen's final victim. She has been sleepwalking through life since the murder, and her stabs at joining the living are touching and funny ("Although my mother disagrees, I have moved forward with my life. For example, I've bought a new bikini"). Ward's celebration of human resilience never becomes preachy, sentimental or politically heavy-handed. Her spare but psychologically rich portraits are utterly convincing.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Ward's impressive debut novel is a powerhouse of melancholic emotions channeled through the jagged lives of her intricate cast of female characters. Karen Lowen is on death row for the murder of numerous men, all of whom (with the exception of one) she claims to have killed in self-defense. The innocent man who crossed Karen's path on that tragic night has left behind a grieving widow named Celia, who cannot find purpose in a life that is empty of her beloved Henry. Then there is Dr. Franny Wren, a consummate professional dedicated to preserving life--now stoically treating women destined to die behind bars. While Celia and Franny grapple with the weight of their hidden desires and lifelong regrets, Karen faces the cold reality of death row and the inevitable sentence that looms before her. Ward deftly creates a route by which all three women irrevocably touch each other's lives, their sorrow reaching through the darkness like searching fingers on the hand of destiny. Elsa Gaztambide
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

ABOUT AMANDA
Amanda Eyre Ward was born in New York City in 1972. Her family moved to Rye, New York when she was four. Amanda attended Kent School in Kent, CT, where she wrote for the Kent News.

Amanda majored in English and American Studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She studied fiction writing with Jim Shepard and spent her junior fall in coastal Kenya. She worked part-time at the Williamstown Public Library. After graduation, Amanda taught at Athens College in Greece for a year, and then moved to Missoula, Montana.

Amanda studied fiction writing at the University of Montana with Bill Kittredge, Dierdre McNamer, Debra Earling, and Kevin Canty, receiving her MFA. After traveling to Egypt, she took a job at the University of Montana Mansfield Library, working in Inter Library Loan.

In 1998, Amanda moved to Austin, Texas where she began working on Sleep Toward Heaven. She wrote for the Austin Chronicle and worked for a variety of Internet startups. In 1999, Amanda won third prize in the Austin Chronicle short story contest with her story Miss Montana's Wedding Day.

She published Butte as in Beautiful that same year.

In July, 2000, Amanda married the geologist Tip Meckel in Ouray, Colorado.

They spent a summer in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Amanda wrote the short stories The Beginning of the Wrong Novel and Classified.

During that summer, Amanda finished Sleep Toward Heaven, which was published in 2003. Sleep Toward Heaven won the Violet Crown Book Award and was optioned for film by Sandra Bullock and Fox Searchlight. To promote Sleep Toward Heaven, Amanda, her baby, and her mother Mary-Anne Westley traveled to London and Paris.

Amanda moved to Waterville, Maine, where she wrote in an attic filled with books. Amanda's second novel, How to Be Lost, was published in 2004. How to Be Lost was selected as a Target Bookmarked pick, and has been published in fifteen countries.

After one year in Maine and two years on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Amanda and her family returned to Austin, Texas.

To research her third novel, Forgive Me, Amanda traveled with her sister, Liza Ward Bennigson, to Cape Town, South Africa. Forgive Me was published in 2007.

Amanda's short story collection, Love Stories in This Town, was published in April, 2009.

Her new novel, Close Your Eyes, will be published in July, 2011.

Amanda currently writes every morning and spends afternoons with her two young boys.


Customer Reviews

There is a good twist at the end.
G. Beaverson
Sleep Toward Heaven gripped me from the first page and did not let go after I finished the book.
a midwest reader
I look forward to reading the second book from this author.
Sarah Rocklin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By J. N Sandell on July 15, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was forced to stay up late into the night last night to finish this novel. That is to say that I just could not tear my eyes from the page, even after I finally closed this book, I lay awake thinking about it. When a book can do that it deserves the highest rating there is to give (and from a first time novelist no less!)
How do we forgive the unforgivable? That is the question that is at the crux of this well etched novel. This is a novel about women on death row, but just to say that would be selling this book incredibly too short. The story centers around three women: Celia, Franny, and Karen. Their lives become inextricably entertwined during a few short months in the hot Texas summer. All three have dealt with copious amounts of sadness throughout their lives and in the end have managed to work through it with tremendous grace.
This is a compelling read, very vivid, poetic. Ms. Eyre-Ward's style and her characters are memorable, no nonsense and very very real. I look forward to more by this author!! I have read many really good books so far this year, but the hours I spent engulfed in this story and these women's lives were the most rewarding.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Rocklin on March 11, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I opened this book at 8:15 and, immediately caught up, finished it at 10:45, with tears in my eyes. The story of these three women, whose lives intersect during one hot summer in Texas, is gripping and heart-rending. The three pieces of the narrative, shifting from Karen to Celia to Franny, come together with an almost audible snap at the end, leaving you with a cohesive whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.
I look forward to reading the second book from this author.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Three very different women --one who is on death row, one who is the wife of one of the victim's, and one who is coming to work at the prison--come to terms with each other--and themselves--during one long, hot, steamy summer in Ward's haunting novel. How do you forgive another? How do you forgive yourself for the choices you made? Beautifully written and just a spell-binding read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mercedes J. TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
I had this book sitting on my wish list forever. Every time I needed a new book, I always skipped over this. Well, finally I decided to get it out from the library so I'd be forced to read it...and I'm soooo glad I did. This book was IMPOSSIBLE to put down. It came everywhere with me until I finished it.

The book offers three different view points from three very different women. In the beginning, these women are strangers to one another, but over time we see how they each come into each others lives, and how much they (and the reader) are affected by this.

Karen has been on death-row in Texas for 5 years for killing multiple men. She gives us a glimpse as to what the prison life is like, and the odd friendships that are formed. Franny is a doctor in NYC who's life is falling apart. After receiving news of her Uncle's death, she leaves her old life behind to go home to her native Texas. There she starts a most unexpected job, and a most unexpected relationship with a death-row inmate. And finally, Celia is the wife of one of Karens victims. We hear her heartbreaking story of life without her husband, her range of emotions towards Karen, and how she copes with it all in the end.

I can't recommend this book enough. These women become women we know, and care about. And even though Karen has killed numerous men, (and we hear how this has effected one of their wives) you can't help but feel sorry for her. I've added Ms. Ward's newest novel 'How To Be Lost' to my wish list, and definitely won't wait so long to read it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By booklover on January 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is not the greatest book I've read, but it is one of the best I have read in a while. While the characters don't really seem to be fully developed, the story is engrossing. It is a fast read, and would be perfect for a bookclub discussion!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
The opening quotation, from whence the title, Sleep Toward Heaven, sets the tone for this extraordinary novel:
"While they slept, faith flowered, an outside dream,and surrounded them in their cave. All they had to do was to sleep toward Heaven and open their eyes like dolls. Up there on the ceiling was all they needed." -William Stafford
Small-town Texas in the dog days of summer, shriveling in the iridescent heat. Vibrating with expectation. At the end of August, the women on death row at the Mountain View facility, one by one, will be transferred to Huntsville for execution by lethal injection. The advice of a seasoned prison guard, "Whatever you do, don't look into their eyes before they go."
The women: The Satan Killer. The Hairdresser of Death. The Highway Honey. The Black Widow. All are tagged with media-friendly nicknames, good PR for intimate press coverage. Their real names are Sharleen, Jackie, Karen, Veronica, Tiffany and later, Samantha. Each has her crimes, her reasons, a wall of denial, an absence of guilt, a history of abuse and neglect. And each has a date with death, moving inexorably closer.
Then there is Franny Wren, the New York physician whose uncle, also a doctor, has died suddenly, providing her with an excuse to return to Gatesville, the town of her youth, her memory. On the way to Texas, Franny dumps a fiancée and a fast approaching wedding ceremony. Franny is beset by self-doubt after the recent and hideously painful death of a young cancer patient. Any attempt to extend the child's life only produced more agony. When Franny learns that her uncle has been volunteering his services at the women's prison, she offers to substitute until a replacement can be found.
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