Book Review: Dreamer by Sand Pilarski

Loss and redemption are pretty hefty subjects for a first time novelist, but Sand Pilarski takes them both on and succeeds in weaving a story that captures the heart.  Pilarski achieves this by peopling her debut novel Dreamer with characters so rich and real that the reader wishes to stay with them long after the last page has been turned.

The story is told from the point of view of Sully Ambris, a middle-aged woman whose husband (the beautiful Adam) cannot seem to stay faithful to their marriage.

“Adam strayed. He strayed so much that you would say he had Marital Alzheimer’s,” Sully tells us. And yet, she stubbornly clings to the marriage; her religious convictions binding her to the faithless Adam even after the divorce is final.  Sully is generous to a fault, unselfishly providing emotional support to all those around her including her distracted sister Jesse and Jesse’s five wonderful kids (“the five”).

Pilarski provides the reader with insight into Sully’s nature by exploring her nighttime dreams as well as through a series of flashbacks about her childhood, including the sibling rivalry that flavors her relationship with Jesse.  Sully’s beautiful, yet controlling mother fills Sully with understandable ambivalence and provides the backdrop to her core personality. When Sully says:  “Sometimes I wonder if my faith wasn’t forged and strengthened by the way I saw my mother live,” we believe her. And so it is no wonder that when her mother dies unexpectedly, Sully’s transformation and growth begins.

Sully forges a strong friendship with Bodie and Andersol, the adult twins who live on her street and vow to never be separated; and who provide the humor in this emotionally packed novel.  Mary LeMay, an elderly next door neighbor, fills the void Sully’s mother leaves behind; in truth, becomes the mother that Sully always wished she’d had.  And when Mary’s son John comes for a visit midway through the story, the reader begins to hope that Sully will finally break free of her self imposed martyrdom.

In the end, Pilarski does not disappoint when she allows Sully to realize her dreams while still keeping faith with her religious convictions.

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