Book - 2004
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A mother seeks freedom for her young son-and rediscovers her own need for it in the process-in this powerful novel about family, identity, and love Once a painter, a traveler, a lover of light, Anna Simon has been living in the dark ever since she gave birth to Max, a child with a rare genetic disease for whom even an hour in sunlight could prove fatal. For years, Anna has home schooled Max and structured her life around his, despite the fact that her husband, Ian, favors mainstreaming. When Anna learns of a camp in upstate New York for children with the disease, she sees room for a compromise-a sanctuary for Max, a place where hecan interact with other children and be both safe and free.And so the summer that Max is nine, the family heads off to Camp Luna. At first, it seems like the answer to their problems. But as Anna is drawn into life there and gets to know Hal, the camp's charismatic founder, freedom and safety prove to be complicated things. What begins as a novel about a mother with a sick child quickly becomes an intricate examination of one woman's identity as Anna-given sudden breathing room-looks around at her life and finds that she haslost track of essential pieces of herself. What, exactly, are safety and freedom? And at what cost-to one's self and the people in one's life-should they be protected and pursued?Beautifully written, emotionally wrenching, Awake showcases the strengths of Elizabeth Graver's acclaimed previous novel, The Honey Thief , the focus shifting from childhood to adulthood, to limn the passions and intricacies of a woman's mind and heart.
Publisher: New York : H. Holt and Co., 2004.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780805065398
Branch Call Number: FICTION Graver Elizabet 2004
Characteristics: 288 p. ;,25 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Feb 25, 2010

I can't decide if this is just a story about an emotionally dishonest person, or this is an emotionally dishonest story about an emotionally dishonest person. Awake by Elizabeth Graver starts out as the book equivalent of a well-intentioned and relatively well-made disease-of-the-week TV movie. It's told from the point of view of Anna, married mother of two boys, the youngest of whom is afflicted with a rare illness that is essentially a severe, potentially fatal allergy to natural light. Overly telegraphed plot developments early on suggest that someone has a penchant for the dramatic, but throughout the book, I tussled with whether this was Anna or Graver herself.

The story of a mother and a family coping with a sick child - including how all of the relationships within the family are affected, not to mention household routines - gets railroaded fairly quickly. Anna finds a summer camp designed especially to accommodate sufferers of her child's disease and their families. The family's first visit ostensibly gives all of them new freedoms they have never experienced before. We really only follow Anna's personal pursuit of freedom, however. It would be acceptable to realize that this was really a story about Anna only and how she's been affected and what she's sacrificed and compromised and all the rest, but it all happens too quickly, both in the framework of the book and in presumed calendar time, to emotionally and realistically buy into it and accept the shift in focus. Essentially, the children and husband seemed to be dropped pretty precipitously and remorselessly.

To try to be sympathetic, perhaps Anna has become a bore *because* she has sacrificed so much for her family. But it still just makes for a tedious account of a person rationalizing her selfish, self-absorbed secretiveness, as her current behaviours morph into transgressions. However, when she starts to confess that she's had a somewhat furtive and untrustworthy track record all along - and therefore her current family situation is not what is driving her to be dishonest for the first time - all sympathy goes out the tinted window.

At least Anna's comeuppance has a bit of a twist to it. Sadly, that's not enough to redeem the book or the character. I'll try to give Graver some credit that she does think what her main character has done is irresponsible. However, it also feels like she cuts her a bit too much slack, lets her rationalize too much, and throws in a few convenient external excuses for her behaviour in the book's rather perfunctory wrap-up.

Maybe Anna is really just ill-suited for the life of a mother and wife, and she should have stayed on the rootless artist path she seems to yearn for. Or maybe there is a more clinical explanation for at least her more recent personal inconsistencies and inconstancy - she's just suffering from a variation of seasonal affective disorder, as she avoids the light almost as much as her afflicted child. But it doesn't explain away some of her earlier duplicity, and ultimately doesn't make for a sympathetic connection with the character and the book.

AD_Library Aug 22, 2009

One of the most brilliant books ever written on the subject of raising a child with disabilities and the impact it has on a mother (and the rest of the family), Elizabeth Graver is an astonishingly talented writer- and I've been waiting since 2004 for her to publish another title!
Highly recommended, 5 stars.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings

No similar edition of this title was found at OPL.

Try searching for Awake to see if OPL owns related versions of the work.

To Top