Contemporary, Drama, Family

We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Hillsingers and the Quicks have shared Seven Island in Maine for generations. But though technically family–Jim Hillsinger and Billy Quick married Park Avenue sisters Lila and Hannah Blackwell–they still maintain some distance. Now, on the anniversary of Hannah’s death, Lila feels her grief pulling her toward Billy. And Jim, a spy recently ousted from the CIA, decides to send his youngest son, 12-year-old Catta, to Baffin Island for 24 hours all on his own to make a man out of him. With the parents preoccupied, the Hillsinger and Quick children run wild, playing violent games led by Catta’s sadistic older brother James. The island manager Cyrus and the servants tend to the families while preparing for the Migration, a yearly farming ritual that means one thing to their employers, and something very different to them.

I seem to be facing a rut when it comes to books: nothing I’ve read has turned out the way I expected. I was really looking forward to this story but it ended up leaving me dissatisfied. While the author put a lot of thought into the various descriptions, and the writing style was quite nice, the story itself failed on a lot of levels. One of the major flaws with this book is that there are too many plot lines. Each one begins at random points and they all interweave to create a confusing mess. Everything just began to meld together and make no sense to me; frankly, it was exhausting to get through this novel. the other flaw with this book is that the characters are hard to connect to; there is this distance between the reader and the characters such that it is hard to empathize or understand them. I really like it when authors pull me into the lives of their characters but that didn’t happen in this story. As I kept reading, I just had this growing impression that the author was trying to hard to create a meaningful literary fiction. In the end, a simpler story with more complex and well-developed characters would have sufficed.

0 thoughts on “We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy

  1. Nice summary of the story! While I agree that I had trouble keeping up with the characters and plot lines in the beginning, I felt connected to it by the midway point. I enjoy the drifting between past and present and among the different characters and the overall sense and feel of the island as a whole over those few days.

    1. I’m glad you had such a positive experience with this novel! I think it may just have been a case of it not being the right fit for me but I would definitely hope that others will give this novel a shot and have a good reading experience!

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