Book Review: Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

I picked up this book after seeing a New York Times review that was positive. I’m working on a project where a worldwide pandemic (of a very different sort) sweeps the country, and so am interested in how other authors handle the same situation.
Generally I saw flaws in the work that I noted in her earlier Swamplandia! Generally she isn’t going deeply enough with the language or her style. The most critical flaw was that she switches between two very different styles in the same book, as she did in Swamplandia! At times she’s reaching for higher level narrative writing, then she returns fully to a commercial tone. It’s jarring for readers, and it put me off quite a bit.
This is a better book overall than Swamplandia! though. I also found her treatment of the topic interesting; it’s really just a way to look at one woman’s grief over the death of a sister. The novella form might have been well suited for this but it doesn’t feel like it. There feels like a lack of detail in both the epidemic and the woman’s development.
So, a fun enough read but not one I’d want to repeat.
2 stars.


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