Wake Me Up
In this novel, teenager Christopher Bullet lies in a coma, the victim of a brutal attack by four classmates, due to his sexual orientation. His body remains unresponsive to stimuli, his brain swollen, the possibility that he will ever emerge from the coma increasingly in doubt. However, his consciousness roams free, observing the actions and slipping in and out of awareness of his family and classmates and of the people they are connected to, in the days leading to and following the attack. Chris, in his altered state of consciousness, broods over those fated hours before the attack, wondering how things might have turned out had he made different choices (not cut school that day, not visited his father’s lover, not confronted his attackers in their act of vandalism, etc.) The assault sets off a series of repercussions that reverberate throughout his family, immediate community, and broader society, changing everyone’s life in some way.
This is an amazing book, leaving this reviewer in awe of the writer’s skill. The point of view is stunningly complex, both omniscient and limited. At times, while Chris slips into various characters’ consciousness and reconstructs the attack, he acknowledges that his understanding of other’s actions and what happened may not be correct, due to limited perspective and damage to his brain. In a subplot, his father’s lover, fiction writer Deepika, constructs her stories based on local people, and Chris’s unreliable narrative becomes tangled with hers. This theme of perspective, of how much we can ever understand others and events, is connected to notions of fate. The assault on Chris was fated as he was propelled into it, by forces he didn’t understand himself, when, contrary to his nature, he confronted the assailants. That “choice” set off a series of effects that also seem fated, changing everything in a way that may have been intended.