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The Sleepwalker Reader’s Guide

By Chris Bohjalian

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. What were your initial theories about Annalee’s disappearance? As the characters reacted to the evidence, what did they reveal about themselves?

2. When you read Annalee’s emails, along with reminiscences of her, what were your impressions? What was it like to get to know her through Lianna’s eyes?

3. Does Warren’s career as a literature professor (specializing in poetry, no less) enhance his ability to cope with his wife’s sleepwalking, or is science the only way to understand it?

4. How does the relationship between Lianna and Paige compare to the relationship between you and your siblings? What determines whether siblings will take care of each other or become rivals?

5. Spoiler alert! Lianna looks like her mother and takes on some of Annalee’s responsibilities even though she is only twenty-one years old. Is it ethical for thirty-three-year-old Gavin to date Lianna, or is he the key to her healing?

6. The author provides detailed images of how a missing person’s body might look after being ravaged by a river. How did this description affect you? Does the physical body or the psyche or the soul play the primary role in making us who we are?

7. The Sleepwalker takes place in the year 2000, just before the dawn of smart phones and the profusion of social media. How does this make for a better storyline? 

8. Lianna has a talent for magic. Why is she drawn to creating illusions, and to being in control of the reality behind them?

9. As the Ahlbergs confront the role of genetics in their family tragedy, what issues are raised about the heart of our identities? Are the Ahlberg girls shaped more by nature or nurture?

10. Spoiler alert! How did you react as you read about the court cases of defendants who were sleepwalking (and the sexual assault accusations Gavin faced when he was younger, described on page 177)? Who is responsible for protecting society from the crimes of a sleepwalker?

11. How would you describe the portrait of a marriage that emerges in the novel? How was trust formed and tested between Annalee and Warren? Did secrecy strengthen or weaken their relationship?

12. In the end, when the meaning of the italicized passages became clear, what did you discover about the nature of guilt? Could anything have prevented Annalee’s disappearance?

13. Spoiler alert! What does sexsomnia tell us about the human sex drive? When Lianna has sleep sex with Gavin for the first time, is she having an encounter with his true self?

14. What surprising facts did you learn about sleepwalking, and sleep in general, as you read this novel? If you were a sleepwalker, what would your strongest impulses be?

15. In a review for Library Journal, Barbara Hoffert observed that Chris Bohjalian “never writes the same book twice. From the rural Vermont-set Midwives to the historical The Sandcastle Girls to the close-at-hand dystopia of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, he charts crucial moments in different settings and with different sensibilities.” Although he is a master of variety, what common strands appear in his depictions of humanity? How did The Sleepwalker enhance your experience of other Bohjalian novels?

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