From the acclaimed Booker Prize-winning author comes a dazzling novel of family, love and love's disappointments
Anna's aged mother is dying. Condemned by her children's pity to living, subjected to increasingly desperate medical interventions, she turns her focus to her hospital window, through which she escapes into visions of horror and delight. When Anna's finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna too feels the pull of the window. She begins to see that all around her, others are similarly vanishing, yet no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into an eerily beautiful story of grief and possibility, of loss and love and orange-bellied parrots.
Hailed on publication in Australia as Richard Flanagan's greatest novel yet, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is a rising ember storm illuminating what remains when the inferno beckons: one part elegy, one part dream, one part hope.
Man Booker winner Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) shines in his fierce, surrealistic look at a family's dissolution in a recognizable if dystopian Australia that's ravaged by wildfires. Amid the fires, 56-year-old Anna, an award-winning Sydney architect, makes reluctant trips to Hobart, Tasmania, to check on her mother, Francie. After Francie suffers a catastrophic brain hemorrhage, Anna's older brother Tommy, an unsuccessful artist who has been shouldering Francie's care, hopes to let her die in peace. Guilt-ridden over her earlier neglect of her family and unprepared to face her mother's mortality, Anna instead sides with their younger brother, Terzo, and orders aggressive treatment. Francie begins hallucinating as the increasingly invasive interventions fail, and despite Francie's delusions, which come through when Francie musters the energy to speak, Anna finds new tenderness in her time with her mother. Meanwhile, Anna's left ring finger painlessly but inexplicably vanishes, soon followed by a kneecap and a nipple. Though she sees the body parts of others disappearing, too (her 22-year-old son gradually fades away to a few fingers), no one comments or reports on the eerie phenomenon. Amid all of these losses, her complacency about her once rewarding life vanishes. Juxtaposing measured prose with passages that jolt and tumble, and realistic depictions of medical issues with Francie's phantasmagoric visions ("the mountain plains outside her window full of fires and sandstorms where, nightly, women queued in one area for abortions and in another for orgies, where fleeing people turned into plants only to perish in flames"), Flanagan's novel illuminates the dangers of taking the world and one another for granted. Its intensity, urgency, and insights are unforgettable.