Book Review: The Things We Left Sleeping
Reviewed by Alexandra Barbush
A creatively structured novel of relationships and the dire effects of mental and physical illness
Lund’s The Things We Left Sleeping is two parts of a whole. Told in two different stories, side by side on the page, we have the perspective of grungy girl Stevie and that of Evie, seemingly simpler but a lot less known. They have a relationship of some amount of intimacy that isn’t clear to the reader in the beginning.
While Stevie’s story plays out, it becomes apparent that something has happened to Evie and that Evie’s father, Dave, hopes Stevie can intervene. The primary movement of storyline or narrative comes from Stevie. Evie, at first, seems lost in a daydream of which she cannot wake. One in which she is safe and secure on a farm. This farm has several rules and breaking any number of them can attract the ire of other farm inhabitants or bring danger into Evie’s world.
Her diary-like entries, an entire half of the novel, is Evie existing in the barn, repeating certain phrases and contemplating staying put or the fear of leaving. Meanwhile, Stevie’s living life in real time. Through her visits to the hospital to see Evie and to Evie’s home to see her father, we start to understand the complicated relationship between the two women.
Though any overt sexuality isn’t mentioned, the reader begins to understand there was a relationship between these two similarly-named English girls and that their relationship soured and eventually broke, right after the death of Evie’s sickly mother.
As Dave and Stevie’s relationship grows little by little over the days spent at the hospital, prescriptions and doctor’s notes strewn throughout the book give clues to Evie’s condition. Epilepsy and seeming bouts of unconsciousness plague Evie while she works out her own farm fantasy in her head. When Stevie’s presence starts to enter the barn, Evie must decide if she wants to stay put in the safety of her own made-reality or come back to the real world where Stevie waits for her.
The Things We Left Sleeping is a poetic ride through a complicated emotional relationship. The back and forth style allows you to choose which way to absorb the information: as two separate stories (reading one perspective, then the other) or a back and forth in which the reader is asked to consider Stevie’s real life and Evie’s barn-brain in juxtaposition.
Where Evie’s narrative is static, Stevie’s is active—a story playing out in present and past that allows the reader to piece the story together. The title, The Things We Left Sleeping, describes two concepts at once: Evie, herself, asleep or comatose at the hospital, and the words left unsaid between the two young women. Through Evie’s father asking for help and Stevie not hesitating, the story hints at the continuation of their relationship and that it might not yet be dead.
Lund’s story is a snapshot of heartbreak, a brief few days in time that, for both women, sum up the love and the pain of their relationship.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Literary & General Fiction / Psychological
Print Length: 410 pages
Thank you for reading Alexandra Barbush’s book review of The Things We Left Sleeping by Kathryn Lund! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.