A few years ago (when I was researching lung transplantation – I was bored, don’t judge me) I came across a site called TransplantBuddies.org. Originally established in 1999, TB was meant to be a resource for those seeking information on particular medications, procedures, and side effects. Not long after its launch however, it became a forum for those who were desperate to talk about their experiences with cellular memory.
For those of you that don’t know, cellular memory is defined as: a theory that the body’s cells retain memories independently from the brain.
At the risk of sounding like a skeptical bitch, the first time I looked up “cellular memory” I filed the entire concept into my bullshit bin and moved on. Clearly these people were on something heavier than prescription pain medications, not to mention a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Obviously I dismissed the site (regardless of its legitimacy when it came to medical facts) and moved on. It wasn’t until I saw Maurice Renard’s “Les Main d”Orlac” a few months later that I decided to revisit (or at the very least became interested in) the concept. So I hopped back onto the previously ditched site and began to read. It only took 3 stories before I was convinced that cellular memory might actually be a real thing. Since then I have read as much as I can find on the subject (both fiction and non) enthralled by the possibility of trait transfer. After-all, I DO believe that people have souls, so why wouldn’t a piece of it (good or bad) imprint on a person’s parts (to put it crudely – I apologize.)
Anyways (I digress) due to its fantastical roots (and the hundreds, if not thousands of ways to manipulate it) cellular memory has become a staple in thriller/mystery/speculative fiction. Renard may have SHOWN the world what can happen when a pianist is plagued with a killers hands, but it’s authors like Maggie Shayne that have taken the concept and added a particular amount of flair to it. I think the phrase most often used is “go big or go home.”
“Sleep With The Lights On” has gotten a TON of fantastic reviews, and I’m not going to disagree with them. If I were to review this book in one sentence it would say: “Great book, fantastic concept, book two will definitely be added to my TBR.” But I’m mouthy, and as much as I hate to say it, this book did not come without it’s fair share of flaws. The most notable being it’s narration. I enjoy first person narrative. I enjoy third person narrative. What I’m not quite convinced of is the decision to use both in one story. (Rachel’s story was told in 1st, Mason -and the remainder of the collective cast- was told in 3rd.) I’m going to step out on a limb here and assume the decision was to create boundaries within the story, as well as give each character their own distinctive voice. Unfortunately, all it did was add a disconnect between the reader and the story. Hoping between the two styles was jarring, and I found myself (on more than one occasion) cringing at the baldness of it.
Speaking of cringing (See how I did that? Segway, check!) Rachel’s aggressive personality is slightly off putting in the forefront of this story, sure to put most readers on edge. While it’s smartly (is that even a word?) contradictive (aka she is the “happiness guru” with a fondness for sailor speak) it doesn’t make her abrasiveness any easier to swallow. Fact: she’s rude. And rude characters are sometimes difficult to get behind. Her vulnerability does start to peek through towards the end of the novel, but even then, it’s a matter of genuineness.
Luckily, the dislike (or annoyance in my case) of Rachel does not effect the overall success of the story found inside “Sleep With The Lights On.” Well paced and firmly executed, this story is one hell of a ride from page 1 all the way to page 368. With an unfathomable amount of truly suspenseful twists and turns, it’s almost (yes, I did say ALMOST) impossible to predict what will happen next, making this book an enjoyable one on so many levels.
In short: it has flaws, some that might actually make you grind you teeth, but the story itself is incredibly fascinating and a wonderful start to what could be a very long series (don’t believe me? Look up how many of your body parts can be donated. It’s shocking.) Oh, and for those of you wondering if this a lust-fest disguised as a thriller (since it’s published by Harlequin Mira) it’s not. Yeah, there are smolders, smiles and even a little sex, but they don’t overwhelm the mystery. As a matter of fact, I was actually shocked there wasn’t more.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “Our minds are information vacuums. Either we fill them with thoughts of our choosing or someone else will.” – Ray Davis