I stumbled onto Atavist Books and was intrigued with the synopsis as well as the book cover of Karen Russell’s digital-only novella, Sleep Donation. I am on a novella (short novel) kick, so I downloaded it to my Kindle straightaway.
The plot follows the protagonist Trish Edgewater who lost her sister, Dori, due to an incurable case of insomnia and now works for the not-for-profit Slumber Corps urging others to donate sleep through the emotional appeal of her sister’s death. Furthermore, the story follows Edgewater as she works closely with Mr. and Mrs. Harkonnen whose infant, “Baby A,” possesses sleep vital for this life-threatening epidemic.
In unfolding the plot, Russell’s use of simile throughout offers vivid descriptions for the reader:
” . . . Donor Y wrote in tiny all-capitals, like a scream shrunken down into a whisper” (Location 469).
“My wife just died, you see, and she’s saturated my sleep like coffin milk” (Location 506).
” . . . the freak blue Maybelline [personally, I never know where to put that blue] smuggles in between the taupe and the gray, which Dori always said was like the strawberry you’re forced to buy in Neapolitan ice cream . . .” (Location 1093).
In addition, the imagery of the moon found at the beginning and the end of the novella offers full-circle writing which could be discussed at length in the critical thinking classroom. Yes!
While reading this short work of fiction, I was on the edge of my seat especially during the scene with Mr. Harkonnen and Edgewater, but ended up expecting a bit more. Also, confusion for me was towards the end where Trish is referred to as “Mrs. Edgewater” (Location 1565) when no mention of a husband occurred anywhere in this writing. Instead, an intimate give and take appeared in Sleep Donation, but a co-worker shared the scene with Edgewater in lieu of a spouse.
For the purposes of book club, one may consider serving “loaves and fishes . . . ” (Location 1004) or “poisoned apple[s]” (Location 1034), but I prefer “green pistachios. . .” (Location 1165) and a risque “purple sleep cocktail. . .” (Location 1316).