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Sleep Toward Heaven: A Novel Paperback – February 17, 2004
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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.
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.
Top customer reviews
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Pediatric oncologist Franny leaves her fiancé and job in New York to return to Texas after the uncle who raised her dies. Celia lives in a cloud of anger, still reeling from her husband's murder five years ago. Karen sits on death row, for that murder. The lives of these three women become entrenched, as each tries to find her way out of despair and pain.
Wow. Amanda Eyre Ward is becoming one of my new favorite writers. At first these women couldn't seem more different, but as their stories slowly unfolded and the layers of their characters developed, I found myself compelled by these very different, yet similar women. Told in multiple POVs, I was drawn into the plot and their individual journeys. SLEEP TOWARD HEAVEN is a beautifully written story about compassion, forgiveness, and mercy.
The characters are richly described, both in physical traits and emotions. You feel each of their foibles and strengths. Being on death row, they all have fear that is expressed in a different way. It was, to me, like passing a horrible crash scene on the highway and you can tell from all the frenzy that people have died. Perhaps in an horrific way. You don't want to look, but you do. What happened? How did something go so wrong? Your stomach knots up, you feel fear yourself.
So, reading this story is like that. The change in POV as each character is revealed is not my favorite but I soon realized it was the only way to bring power into the novel and the author did it very well.
Last, the ending is so brilliant and really, when I finished the last sentence I couldn't have thought it any better. And I do REALLY REALLY appreciate a strong ending. Excellent all the way around.
objection I had,was the style of the linked characters
each telling their story.I thought it jumped around in the
beginning and I had to go back and check their status,with
That said,the story draws you into the failed romance of
Dr. Fran Wren,a New York City physician,and her failed
medical mistakes.Franny decides to leave her fiance,and
return to her roots in Waco,Texas.
Outside of Waco,is a women's prison where Franny's
Uncle,Dr. Wren,spent some of his time attending to
the patients.Dr. Jack Wren,dies suddenly and Franny
is asked to temporarily take his place.
Reluctantly,Fran agrees to treat the women,some who
are on Death Row.The women she finds herself assigned
to are distinguished by names like Satan Killer,The
Black Widow,(a serial bride who poisoned her husbands),
and Karen,who is HIV-positive,and sentenced to die.
Karen was terribly abused by men all her life-but she
also took innocent life and that is debated in this
book,along with Capital punishment.
It ends with almost an O.Henry ending,impossible
I hope Ms. Ward writes more books.I am waiting
I learned something important from reading this book--I had the sensation of coming out on the other side with something new. I delighted in the many graceful expressions of feelings and observations I had never quite pinned down for myself, and wasn't sure anyone else had ever noticed or appreciated. I feel like I have had an EXPERIENCE after reading this book! I cherish it.
I never really liked any of the characters which really clouds the book. I realize prisoners are vulgar but the language was a bit much and I felt it did nothing to add to the story. Our book club read it and none of us really liked the story.
Most recent customer reviews
think of the title right now. Will definitely read her again.