Sleeping Beauties is 715 pages long. Yes, you got that right, 715 pages! The thickness of this novel really intimidated me. How am I supposed to get through this book? This will take me ages. I had bought this back back in 2017, but just got down to reading it now.
I find out that this book is the first edition and all first editions have a hidden cover illustration, and I remove the jacket of the book to reveal the blue colored imprint of the tiger. Ok, so there has to be a tiger in this story. I am excited now.
Till I get to the point where I am bombarded with four pages of characters list. A long list. I am so daunted now. How am I supposed to keep track of all these characters? I am overwhelmed, but I still make an effort to get into the book.
Five days later, I am done with the book. My initial experience: hmmm, it wasn’t really worth it. It’s too long and it could have really been shortened.
Sleeping Beauties is jointly written by Stephen King and his son Owen King. Because I have read enough of Stephen King, I could figure out which parts of the book Stephen wrote, and the more demure parts of the book were written by Owen.
Sleeping Beauties are referred to the women who are being inflicted with a virus that puts them to sleep. Along with the sleep, these women are also being enshrouded with cobweb like materials, so essentially they become cocooned inside – and they are known as Auroras. As some of the characters realise, waking these women up brings them back as homicidal women, who attack and kill. So the pressure is on: Do NOT Wake Them!
While the pandemic is global and has an epic feel to it, the center of all this action takes place in a women’s prison, situated in one of the three tri-state counties of Dooling, in the Appalachian Mountains. We don’t get out from this town.
We follow two main characters: Lila Norcross and her husband Clint Norcross. Lila is the local sheriff and she is someone who hardly sleeps and has a very dry personality. Her husband, Clint, is the resident psychiatrist at the women’s prison. Their marriage is already on a shaky ground. So will this pandemic bring them closer or what?
The action begins when two men running a meth lab are murdered and the woman who killed them, hands herself in to the police. They nickname her Eve Black, and somehow she isn’t affected by the virus. Lila, on the other hand, does all she can to stay awake in order to not catch the virus, while investigating the murder.
As Eve and Clint spend time talking, it turns out that Eve has been sent from another dimension and asks Clint to protect her for a week. This other dimension is a place where there are only women, who believe that a world without men would be a safer, happier and free from hatred.
That’s just the brief gist of the novel. There’s so much more that happens. More and more women fall asleep and cross over into the other dimension, where they aim to restart their community without men. There is a Tree that connects this other place to Dooling.
The women in the other place eventually start facing problems of their own when one woman wants to burn down the Tree to break all connections to the real world. The men gather all the weapons for the ultimate showdown at the prison, where they want to capture Eve. Amidst all this drama, lots of people are killed.
Which makes Clint realise something that Eve had been trying to prove all along: men are inherently violent, which is why a world without men would be better.
Ultimately, Eve returns to the Other Place, where the women all vote to return to the real world because they realise a world without men doesn’t necessarily work.
I loved the premise of the book: what if there were a world with just women and no men? Would they make better leaders and civilians? Will they be able to survive without men? How does one survive a global pandemic? Are men inherently violent? Are women capable of being hate-free?
However, with so many characters, I was often distracted and had to go back to the list over and over to reorient myself in the plot. Initially intimidating, the characters list made for a helpful accompaniment to reading. Having said that, there were still too many characters for me to follow.
The entire women’s prison setting reminded me so much of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. I just couldn’t get away from that image as I read about these women prisoners behaving just like the women on the tv show.
The whole Tree part reminded me of the tree from Avatar and so those images started cropping up in my mind. It was helping me a lot to have these visual images to keep me reading on.
In all honesty, while I loved the premise, I felt let down by the book. It wasn’t all that exciting or engaging. I didn’t care for a lot of these characters, including the main ones. I started caring for Eve Black, but then with so many other people popping up, I didn’t get time to really care for her. So with no attachments to anyone, I really didn’t care who lived or died. Oh and yes, there are talking animals in the book too.
It is too long of a book. Perhaps were it a shorter book, with tighter editing and less characters, then it would have made for a perfect book.