The only thing more dangerous than a lie...is the truth.
Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a long-closed murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.
Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason: her father was murdered, her mother ran away to join a cult, and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, went completely off the rails and stole her high school sweetheart. Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.
The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.
When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s carefully constructed world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Kathleen Barber was raised in Galesburg, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law, and previously practiced bankruptcy law at large firms in Chicago and New York. When she’s not writing, Kathleen enjoys traveling the world with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
Are You Sleeping
Nothing good happens after midnight. At least that’s what Aunt A used to tell us whenever we begged for later curfews. We would scoff and roll our eyes and dramatically pronounce she was ruining our social lives, but over time I came to see the wisdom in her words. Trouble is the only thing that occurs between midnight and sunrise.
So when my phone rang at three o’clock that morning, my first thought was, Something bad has happened.
I instinctively reached for Caleb, but my hand grasped only cool sheets. Momentary panic fluttered in my throat, but then I remembered Caleb was three weeks into a trip overseeing aid workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Still half asleep, I dimly worked out it was eight o’clock in the morning there. Caleb must have forgotten about the time difference or miscalculated it. Frankly, neither mistake seemed like him, but I knew how draining these trips were on him.
The phone rang again and I snatched it up with a hurried greeting, eagerly anticipating Caleb’s familiar Kiwi accent, the soft rumble of his voice saying, “Jo, love.”
But there was nothing. I sighed in frustration. Caleb’s calls from abroad were always marked with exasperating delays, echoes, and strange clicks, but they had been particularly difficult on this trip.
“Hello?” I tried again. “Caleb? . . . I think we have a bad connection.”
But even as the words left my mouth, I noted the lack of static. The connection was crisp. So crisp, in fact, that I could hear the sound of someone breathing. And . . . something else. What was that? I strained to listen and thought I heard someone humming, the tune familiar but unplaceable. A warning tingle danced up my spine.
“Caleb,” I said again, even though I was no longer convinced my boyfriend was on the other end of the line. “I’m going to hang up. If you can hear me, call me back. I miss you.”
I lowered the phone, and in the second before I pushed the disconnect button, I heard a hauntingly familiar feminine voice quietly say, “I miss you, too.”
I dropped the phone, my hand shaking and my heart thundering against my rib cage. It was just a bad connection, I told myself. Those had been my own words echoed back at me. There had been no “too.” It was three in the morning, after all. It hadn’t been her. It couldn’t have been. It had been nearly ten years; she wouldn’t call me now, not like this.
Something bad has happened.
I grabbed the phone and checked my call log, but there were no clues, just a vague UNKNOWN CALLER.
Something bad has happened, I thought again before sternly ordering myself to stop. It was only Caleb, only a bad transcontinental connection, nothing that hadn’t happened before.
But it still took me two doses of NyQuil before I could fall back asleep.
• • •
It was almost eleven by the time I woke, and in the light of day, the mysterious early-morning phone call seemed like nothing more than a bad dream. I fired off a quick, confident email to Caleb (Sorry we had such a bad connection last night. Call again soon. xoxo) and laced up my running shoes. I paused in the doorway of the Cobble Hill brownstone to chat about the weather with the elderly woman who lived on the first floor, and then took off toward the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
When Caleb and I moved from Auckland to New York two years ago, I had imagined that glamour would infuse even the most mundane aspects of our lives. I had expected to be taking in cutting-edge art on my walk to the train, browsing heirloom tomatoes alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal at the Brooklyn farmers market, and admiring the expansive view of the Statue of Liberty as I jogged across the Brooklyn Bridge. In reality, the most street art I saw was chalk-drawn hopscotch boards and the occasional spray-painted tag on a trash can. I never purchased heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market because their cost was laughably astronomical, and the only celebrity I ever rubbed elbows with was a Real Housewife (who, I should note, took vocal offense to the price of those same tomatoes). As for jogging across the Brooklyn Bridge, it remained a good idea in theory but a terrible one in practice. The bridge was consistently clogged with camera-touting tourists, bicycles, and strollers. I found I much preferred the calm of the Promenade, with its wide path, notable lack of tourists, and similarly impressive view.
I arrived home sweaty and invigorated with just enough time to shower and fix a sandwich before I had to leave for my afternoon shift at the bookstore. Growing up, I had imagined myself wearing a suit and heels to work every day (the exact outfit fluctuated with my mood, but often resembled those of Christina Applegate’s character in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead). I would have been shocked to discover my nearly thirty-year-old self wore jeans and Chuck Taylors to work; teenaged me would no doubt have considered it a failure. But while I might not be on the path I had once envisioned, I was largely content working in the bookstore. Early on in our tenure in New York, I had used a temp agency to find some administrative positions, but they’d made me want to tear out my hair, and then I discovered that the bookstore down the street was hiring. I started with a few hours a week, supplementing the income with a part-time gig as a barista, but over the last couple of years, I had increased my hours until it was a full-time position. I loved every minute I spent in the bookstore, loved being surrounded by stories and helping patrons select titles. When things were slow, I read the biographies of American presidents and told myself that someday I would finally put the history degree I had earned online to use.
That afternoon I was working with Clara, whose gorgeous Ethiopian features and impressive collection of literary-themed T-shirts I envied. Vivacious and warm, Clara was the closest thing I had to a friend in New York. Sometimes we took a yoga class or a run together; sometimes she invited me to see some friend or another in an off-off-off-Broadway play or at a poetry reading. Earlier in the summer, Caleb and I teamed up with Clara and her now ex-girlfriend for Tuesday-night trivia at a bar on Court Street, and those nights had been the highlight of my week.
The ex-girlfriend had begun calling Clara again, and, as we shelved a new shipment of books, Clara asked my help in decoding their latest conversation. As we debated whether “see you around” meant “let’s make plans” or “maybe we’ll run into each other,” the door chimed with the arrival of customers, and we both looked up.
I don’t believe in signs. I don’t put stock in destiny, I don’t worry if a black cat crosses my path, and I’ve only had my tarot read for laughs. But if there ever was a time to believe in omens, it was that afternoon, the echo of the strange voice on the phone tugging at my memory, when a woman stepped into the bookstore with a pair of twin daughters. My vision tilted and my knees went weak; I had to clutch a nearby table to avoid collapsing.
“Hi,” the woman said. “I’m looking for Nancy Drew books. Do you carry them?”
I nodded mutely, unable to tear my eyes away from the twins. It wasn’t that they looked like us, not at all. They were blond with freckled cheeks and big dark eyes—near polar opposites of our ink-colored hair and blue eyes. Beyond that, the girls were clearly at odds, sulking and exchanging the occasional blow behind their mother’s back. Lanie and I never fought like that. Not until we were older, that is. But there was something about them, an emotional charge they carried that robbed me of my senses.
“Sure,” Clara said, stepping around me to their assistance. “Let me show you.”
I excused myself to the bathroom to avoid staring at the girls. I pulled my phone from my pocket and checked the call log again. UNKNOWN CALLER. What if it hadn’t been Caleb? Could it have been Lanie? It had been almost a decade since I had spoken to my sister; something had to be wrong if she was calling me.
By the time I emerged from the bathroom, the twins and their mother were gone.
“I know, right?” Clara said sympathetically. “Twins always give me the creeps, too. Probably residual trauma from watching The Shining at the tender age of eight.”
“The Shining?” I repeated, still shaken. I had read the book, but couldn’t recall any twins.
“You’re kidding me. You’ve never seen The Shining? My older brothers watched it all the time. They used to chase me around the house shouting, ‘Redrum! Redrum!’?” Clara smiled and shook her head affectionately. “Those assholes.”
“I’m an only child,” I said. “No siblings to force me to watch scary movies.”
“Well, you’re really missing out. What are you doing tonight? Unless it’s something awesome, we’re absolutely having movie night at my place.”
I readily agreed, for some reason not wanting to be alone that night more than I’d ever admit, and the movie served as an effective distraction. That is, until I checked my email and saw Caleb had responded: Sorry, love, didn’t call last night. Internet signal has been too weak to make a call for days now. Things are going well here, work-wise. We’re on schedule, should be home in another week or so. Will update soon. Would kill a man for a salad. Miss you bunches. Love you.
Caleb’s email chilled me more than the creepy happenings at the Overlook Hotel. If it hadn’t been him on the phone, I was certain it was Lanie. A barrage of memories crowded my mind: Lanie spinning like a top under a night sky, sparklers held in each extended arm; Lanie slamming the bedroom door in my face, her eyes bloodshot and her mouth a grim line; Lanie pushing aside the covers on my twin bed and climbing in beside me, her breath warm on my cheek as she whispered, “Josie, are you sleeping?”, never waiting for an answer before beginning to softly tell secrets in the dark.
“Josie-Posie, I have to tell you something,” she had said on one such occasion, the timbre of her voice teeming with conspiratorial excitement. “But you have to promise me it stays between us. Anything said here in this bedroom stays between us, always.”
“Always,” I agreed, hooking my ring finger around hers in our secret sign. “I promise.”
Lanie’s secret had been that she had kissed the eighteen-year-old leader of our tennis day camp behind the municipal building that afternoon, a shocking revelation given that we were thirteen that summer and that she had somehow managed to charm the good-looking boy away from his duties. I had been scandalized, hissing something about our parents not being happy about that.
“They don’t have to know,” she said sternly. “Remember, between us. Always.”
Always. Her voice was so clear in my mind. It had to have been Lanie. Would she call again?
And if she did, would I be ready to answer?
• • •
The following afternoon, I was off from work and took the train to the Union Square Farmers Market. Once there, however, I was disenchanted by the crowds and the picked-over kale and pears, and I ended up doing my shopping at (the only marginally less crowded) Whole Foods. Sitting on the R train, balancing a couple of bags filled with frozen veggie burgers and overpriced but beautiful produce on my lap, I overheard someone say:
“Dude, have you heard about this Chuck Buhrman murder thing?”
Blood roared in my ears, and my vision went blurry. It had been more than a decade since I had heard my father’s name, and hearing it casually tumble out of the mouth of a skinny teenager with a lip piercing made my stomach turn.
“Is that the podcast everyone is going on about?” the girl’s friend asked. “I don’t do podcasts.”
“This is different,” the first girl insisted. “Trust me. It’s a fucking trip. This guy got convicted for murder, right? But the evidence was all, what do you call it, circumstantial. The biggest thing they had was the guy’s daughter who claimed she saw it. But here’s the thing: first she said she didn’t see anything at all. So we know she’s a liar. But what’s she lying about? You’ve got to listen to it, man, it’s addictive as fuck.”
As the train slid to a stop at Court Street, the girl was still enthusiastically endorsing the podcast. I felt so blindsided that I doubted I could stand, let alone climb the subway stairs and, laden with groceries, walk the final stretch to our apartment. My knees buckled as I rose, but I managed to propel myself through the crowded underground hallways and up aboveground. In my dazed state, I used the wrong exit, emerging on the far side of Borough Hall, and walked two blocks in the opposite direction of home before I came to my senses. Reorienting myself, I managed to place one foot in front of the other enough times to reach home.
I slid my key in the lock and hesitated. I had spent the weeks since Caleb left hating the resulting stillness of our apartment. I missed his mild chaos. I found myself resenting the way everything remained exactly where I left it. Caleb’s running shoes, trailing across the living room floor with shoelaces stretched out like tiny arms, hadn’t tripped me in weeks. I was no longer finding half-drunk mugs of coffee in the bathroom, dog-eared books stuck between the couch cushions, or the clock radio softly playing classic rock to an empty bedroom. I could feel his absence in the lack of these minor domestic annoyances, and they tugged at my heart each time I entered our home.
But, with my hand shaking as it held the key in the lock and my father’s name ricocheting around my brain, I welcomed the solitude of our apartment. I needed to be alone.
Dropping the groceries in the entryway, leaving the veggie burgers to slowly defrost on the ground, I rushed to my laptop. I typed my father’s name into a search engine with trembling fingers. Bile climbed up my throat when I saw the number of hits. There were pages upon pages filled with a startling parade of news articles, opinion pieces, and blog posts—all dated within the last two weeks. I clicked the first link, and there it was: the podcast.
Reconsidered: The Chuck Buhrman Murder was splashed in bold red letters across a fuzzy black-and-white picture of my father. It was the headshot he had used for work, the one where he looked less like an actual college professor and more like a caricature of one, with his tweed jacket, crooked eyeglasses, and thick black beard. The faint twinkle in his eyes threatened to undo me.
I slammed the computer shut and buried it beneath a pile of magazines. When all I could see was Kim Kardashian staring up at me from the cover of a glossy tabloid I had shamefully bought waiting for the train one day—more evidence of how everything fell apart without Caleb around—I was once again able to breathe normally.
My cousin Ellen didn’t answer her phone when I called, and I left her a voicemail demanding that she tell me what she knew about the podcast. After twenty minutes of sitting on the couch willing my phone to ring, I gave up and began searching for tasks to distract myself: I put away the groceries, I wiped up the puddle the veggie burgers had left in the entryway, I ran a bath but then drained it before climbing inside, I started painting my toenails but abandoned the project after only three nails had been polished a gloomy dark purple.
Red wine was the only thing that helped. Only after sucking down a juice glass full of the stuff was I calm enough to revisit the podcast’s website. I refilled my glass and pushed the magazines aside. Gingerly, I opened the computer.
The website was still there, still advertising a podcast that promised to “reconsider” my father’s murder. I frowned, confused. There was nothing to reconsider. Warren Cave murdered my father. He was found guilty and he received his punishment. How could this Poppy Parnell, this woman whose name made her sound more like a yarn-haired children’s toy than an investigative journalist, spin an entire series out of this? Taunting myself, I hovered my cursor over the Download Now button for the first of the two available episodes. Did I dare to click the link? I chewed my lip as I wavered, took another gulp of wine to steel myself, and clicked.
Ellen called just as Episode 1 finished downloading. Gripped by morbid fascination, I nearly declined the call in order to listen to the podcast, but I shook it off and answered the phone.
“Do not listen to that podcast.”
I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding. “Is it bad?”
“It’s trash. Sensationalized trash. That pseudo-journalist is turning your family’s tragedy into a commodity, and it’s disgusting. I have Peter looking into whether we can sue her for defamation or slander or whatever it’s called. He’s the lawyer; he’ll figure it out.”
“Do you really think he can do that? Put a stop to it?”
“Peter can do anything he puts his mind to.”
“Like marrying a woman half his age?”
“Not really the time for jokes, Josie,” Ellen said, but I could hear a hint of laughter in her voice.
“I know. It’s just nerves. Please thank your esteemed husband for his help.”
“I’ll let you know more as soon as I do. How are you handling it?”
“Well, for starters, I wish I hadn’t found out by overhearing a teenager on the train. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I was hoping I wouldn’t have to. I’d hoped it would all just blow over, but apparently America has an appetite for that brand of opportunistic, sensationalist reimagining of the truth.”
“I can’t believe this is happening. What am I supposed to do?”
“Nothing,” Ellen said firmly. “Peter’s on top of this. And I’m still not convinced this won’t burn out on its own. How much ‘reconsidering’ can she really do of an open-and-shut case?”
• • •
Even though Ellen emphatically warned me not to listen to the podcast, I remained tempted, the same way one was tempted to pick at a scab or tug at a torn cuticle until it bled. I knew nothing good could come from listening, but I wanted—no, I needed—to know what this Poppy Parnell person was saying. How could she possibly justify “reconsidering” my father’s murder? And how could that be the premise for an entire series? I could effectively summarize the case in one sentence: Warren Cave killed Chuck Buhrman. End of story.
I topped off my wine and wished Caleb were home. I ached for the calming sensation of his big, warm hands on my shoulders, and his soothing voice assuring me that everything was going to be all right. I needed him to fix tea and turn on that odd reality show about toothless men making illegal whiskey. If Caleb were home, I would have been comforted and protected; I would not have been gulping wine alone in the dark, electric with terror.
And yet part of me was relieved by Caleb’s absence. The very idea of having to tell him about the podcast, and thereby being forced to admit all the lies I had told, filled me with liquid dread. I desperately hoped Ellen was right, and that the podcast would fizzle out on its own before Caleb returned from Africa.
I didn’t listen to the podcast, but I could not stop myself from obsessively Googling Poppy Parnell all night. She was in her early thirties, not more than two or three years older than myself. She was midwestern, like me, and held a BA in journalism from Northwestern. I also saw she had once run a popular crime website, and had a long list of bylines in publications like the Atlantic and the New Yorker. When I had exhausted that, I switched to an image search. Poppy Parnell was a thin strawberry blonde with angular features and wide, almost startled eyes—not conventionally attractive enough for television, but too pretty for radio. In most photographs, she wore too-large suit jackets and leaned forward, her mouth open and one hand raised, mid-gesture. Poppy looked like the kind of girl I would have been friends with a lifetime ago.
Scowling at Poppy Parnell’s smiling face, I poured the rest of the wine into my glass. I reached out to slam the computer shut, but something stopped me. The podcast was still open in another tab.
Cursing Poppy Parnell and myself, I pressed Play.
Reading Group Guide
This readers group guide for Are You Sleeping includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your readers group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
After an adventurous period touring Africa and Asia in her twenties, Josie Buhrman has settled into a comfortable life in New York City. Her job at the neighborhood bookstore is steady and pleasant, and she can rely on her live-in boyfriend, Caleb, when not away on business, to share leisurely hours in their apartment with cups of coffee and the daily crossword puzzle.
But Josie also keeps a secret past from her dreamy partner. Her father was murdered when she was just a girl. Grief-stricken, Josie’s mother abandoned her twin daughters to the care of their aunt and joined up with a strange cult in California. Her sister, Lanie, also grew increasingly distant, ultimately severing the last remnants of their once-fierce bond by stealing Josie’s high-school sweetheart.
And when enterprising young journalist Poppy Parnell turns Josie’s private ordeal into a very public trial with a hit podcast revisiting her father’s murder case, her long-absent mother suddenly commits suicide, and the newly laid foundation of Josie’s new identity begins to crack beneath her. In order to fly back to the Midwest and make arrangements, Josie has to come clean with Caleb—but comes to find that the truths still buried at home go deeper than those she even knew to hide.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Are You Sleeping makes inventive formal use of social media at the end of each chapter, from podcast transcriptions to representations of threads on Twitter. How does the author’s choice to reveal many of the Buhrman family’s secrets through social media, rather than from Josie’s point of view, affect the way she structures the story?
2. Josie spends a lot of time weighing her decision to lie to Caleb about her past. When she does finally come clean, she explains to him that she had told him her mother was dead because “she abandoned us [. . .] For all I knew, she was dead. [. . .] I’d devoted a lot of time and effort to distancing my old life from my new one. I tried to forget about my family” (p. 149). How did you first react to this admission? Do you agree or disagree with her reasoning?
3. People react in a variety of ways to death, as Barber keenly depicts when Josie must struggle to swallow “inappropriate laughter” at her mother’s visitation (p. 92). How do you see Josie’s feelings about her mother changing over the course of this difficult occasion? In what ways does she compare herself to Lanie through the ways each sister chooses to grieve?
4. Aunt A understands her sister’s abandonment of her children as a symptom of guilt—over the deaths of her brother, her parents, and finally her husband. For which circumstances, given what you learn at the end of the novel, do you feel Erin rightly assumes blame? How much does her victimhood during her marriage explain her actions after Chuck’s death?
5. Josie’s feelings about Lanie and Adam’s union depend a lot on whether Adam confused one twin for the other when he first slept with Lanie. How much consolation do you think it offers Josie to trust that the affair started as a case of mistaken identity? Do you think she ever genuinely believed that explanation to be true?
6. Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina held an important place in Erin’s heart during her life. How might she have related the novel’s famous opening line—“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (p. 184)—to her own experience? What other features of Tolstoy’s novel might help explain why she would choose to convey her suicide note to her daughters on its pages?
7. When confronted with the argument that the unvarnished approach of the Reconsidered podcast might have contributed to Erin’s suicide, Poppy emphasizes that “it wasn’t a group of strangers” that killed her, but “the ghosts of her own past” (p. 194). What do you think of this interpretation? To what degree is suicide a personal choice or a tragedy of circumstance?
8. Josie feels steadfastly that the podcast has turned “[her] father’s untimely death into a commodity” (p. 195) and “taken the single most horrible thing that’s ever happened to [her] and repackaged it as entertainment” (pp. 196–197). To what degree do you think journalists have an obligation to treat living subjects with sensitivity? Does the need to inform the public outweigh the risk crime reporting runs of commodifying the pain and suffering of victims?
9. Photographs appear frequently in the novel as windows into the past and clues about the circumstances surrounding Chuck’s murder. How do photographs like Lanie’s unhappy portrait at her wedding (p. 73), the snapshot of the family at Mount Rushmore, or the photo in the garden with a glimpse of Melanie Cave in the background (p. 220) illuminate details beyond the reach of memory? In which ways do they also mislead?
10. While Poppy easily dismisses that “Lanie Buhrman is not a victim” (p. 231), Josie comes to realize at the end of the novel that her sister’s pain “went beyond witnessing his death, it even went beyond seeing our mother be the one to pull the trigger—it was the unrelenting torment of unconsciously believing she could have done something to stop it, that she was responsible for the loss of our parents” (p. 306). How does this realization shed light on Lanie’s development as a character? Is her self-doubt about motherhood justified? Is her marriage a healthy bond?
11. As a result of the trauma she has experienced, Lanie’s memory of the words of her father’s killer evolves from “first the girl” (p. 87) to finally “first Pearl, and now . . .” (p. 289). Consider the theme of memory in Are You Sleeping. In what ways does Barber demonstrate how the mind alters or constructs reality? How reliable should a child be as an eyewitness to the murder of his or her parent?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. The format of Reconsidered bears some striking resemblances to the first season of the investigative journalism podcast Serial. Listen to the series and discuss in which ways Serial might have been an inspiration for the language and style of Barber’s fictional podcast. Compare Sarah Koenig’s journalistic approach specifically to that of Poppy Parnell.
2. The title Are You Sleeping could be taken a few different ways. Put together an argument for an interpretation of the title’s meaning that might surprise the other members of your book club and present it to them.
3. Fans and critics of Reconsidered alike use Twitter to express interesting ethical points at various times during the novel. Choose one of the Twitter handles Barber has invented and stage a debate in which each member of your book club maintains the point of view of one of the fictional users regarding the role investigative journalism should play in our society.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The mystery of the story kept me turning pages. The character development and the unfolding past kept the story very interesting. I enjoyed the author’s style. The only reason for 4/5 stars is the ending. The book ends with Poppy Parnell having the last word. I would have liked the main character (Josie) to be the final scene in the book, told from her perspective...and perhaps some tying up of loose ends more cleanly. Overall, it was a fun read and I do recommend it!
I loved this book. I could not put it down. I read the book in a day. started at the gym and finished that evening. It had a lot of twist and turns and can't wait to research other books by the writer.
This book had a lot of twists and turns. Couldn't put it down. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Are You Sleeping is about a woman named Josie who has tried to escape her past. Her father was murdered 13 years ago, her mother joined a cult, and her twin sister Lanie betrayed her. After graduating from high school, Josie began traveling where she met her boyfriend Caleb who knows nothing about her past and together they moved to New York. However, following her mother’s death and the podcast started by the investigative reporter Poppy Parnell that re-opens the case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie must return to her hometown to confront her family and face her past. The story is told from the viewpoint of Josie, and it also includes transcripts of Poppy’s podcast as well as newspaper articles, Facebook posts, reddit discussions, and tweets. I found that including the social media aspect with the story unique and it highlights how people on social media today will do anything to find out the truth. There are not too many characters to keep track of, and the minor characters are often reintroduced with how they are related to the main characters, which is helpful. Josie is a likable character, but at times she can be a bit frustrating. The other main characters have their own personalities which makes them either likable or unlikable. While I was reading the book, I did not want to put it down, but there were a few slow parts. I also did not figure out the truth until the end when it was revealed. After the story ends, Poppy’s last episode of her podcast neatly wraps up everything and does not leave any questions unanswered. I would definitely recommend this book if you like mysteries and family dramas.
I am enjoying the book so far, however, several pages are missing in the first 30 pages of the e-book.
I loved this book! Josie has made huge strides to let go of her family and her past. However, it all comes back to bite her in the butt when a blogger decides to do a podcast about the murder of her father a decade ago. This brings everything back to the surface and Josie has to put herself back into the family again. Unfortunately, Caleb, her live-in boyfriend thinks her parents died in a car crash and she is an only child. The secrets that come out when Josie has to attend her mother's funeral are dark and jaw dropping. I sped through this book and enjoyed it very much. Huge thanks to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review. This was a spectacular mystery, thriller debut novel that was one that I just wanted to keep on reading! I really appreciate that there was transcripts of the podcasts and tweets and so forth, really pulling in how social media spreads 'news' (more like rumors) and that's where a lot of people end up getting information from. I do kind of wonder what this novel would sound like in an audiobook because reading all these things was fun and interesting but hearing the podcast in the transcripts form would be cool! This novel follows Josie who has a lot of secrets from her past and changed her name to be able to hide from those secrets, however, now the secrets of the past have caught up with her as she's called to attend her mother's funeral due to suicide. This came out of nowhere after finding out about a new podcast that everyone is listening to that is reopening her family secrets and the murder of her father. In addition, Josie hasn't told her long-term boyfriend about her past...or her parents, let alone about her identical twin sister! Now she's starting to feel stressed and overwhelmed with dealing with all this family stress as well as keeping her relationship in tact, yet keeping him at a distance to avoid having to tell him the truth. As this investigation from the podcast report, Polly Parnell, unfolds we also watch as Josie finally embraces her past and fixes some long held secrets. Again, an amazing novel that I did not want to stop reading. I would HIGHLY recommend this novel if anyone is a fan of the true crime shows or stories, this is a top-notch mystery/thriller and I cannot wait to see where this author goes from here! And, if you ask me, I feel like we may see Polly Parnell again...and I'm interested in that!
Pretty good read
Josie has done everything she can to construct a normal life in New York with her handsome and devoted boyfriend. When a true crime podcast dredges up her father’s murder from a decade ago, then goes viral, Josie finds her fragile new world blown apart. “Reconsidered” begins investigating the possibility that the man accused of her father’s murder is innocent. The accused was convicted almost entirely based on eyewitness testimony from Josie’s now estranged twin, Lanie. The podcast, coupled with the sudden, violent death of her mother, forces Josie to return to her hometown and confront her past, her sister, and all that she’s believed in this suspenseful thriller. What a fantastic premise! A subtle dig at true crime lovers, myself included. We all enjoy speculating about what happened in another’s tragedy and Kathleen Barber makes us see this rabid speculation from another side–the side of the loved ones directly effected by the tragedy. Barber’s characters are solid and developed, the relationship between the twins, their aunt, and cousin is beautiful. Told in part through Josie’s eyes, in transcriptions from the podcast, and in tweets from podcast fans it is a very modern thriller. A fast, suspenseful novel with weight to it. A must read for mystery/thriller lovers and true crime enthusiasts alike. 4.25/5 stars
Complex, creative, and satisfying! Are You Sleeping is a character-driven thriller that takes us on a journey to solve a 10-year-old murder while delving into the intricacies and psychological effects homicide, deception, and abandonment have on surviving family members. The writing is well done. The characters are scarred, leery, and emotionally distant. The plot has a good mix of mystery, intrigue, conflict, and drama. And the unconventional narration using true-crime podcasts and social media postings adds a unique touch. Are You Sleeping is ultimately a novel about familial dynamics, twinship, friendship, secrets, lies, murder and the power of media and although it isn't exceptionally fast-paced or unputdownable, it is certainly a strong debut for Barber.
Thirteen years ago, Josie’s father Chuck Burnham was murdered. His killer, according to Jo’s sister, Lanie, is their neighbor Cave Warren. Lanie claimed that she saw Warren Cave pull the trigger and shoot her father. On present day, reporter Poppy Parnell has started a series of a podcast called Reconsidered, where the one being considered is Chuck’s murder, in order to uncover the truth and possibly prove Cave Warren’s innocence. Jo’s family isn’t perfect, and in fact their life is only going to get worse… There’s Erin, the mother, who is marked by the horrors of her past, having to watch her brother die in front of her, losing her parents and then going through her husband’s murder. Lanie, the rebellious sister, has been a complete mess ever since she was a teenager, with a love for satanic music, booze and drugs. And also, thirteen years later, sleep deprivation, and hauntingly confusing dreams which I think are the main liaisons to the book’s title Are You Sleeping?, which makes the reader wonder, was Lanie awake when she saw the murder in front of her eyes, or was she sleeping, seeing it all in a dream? And then there’s Josie who, abandoned by both her mother and sister after the death of her father, tries to escape this life of misery. So she changes her name and moves to a new home with Caleb, her loving boyfriend, to whom she had lied about her family and her past. And it isn’t until this podcast ‘Reconsidered‘ starts bringing up Chuck’s death, Erin’s mental illness and Lanie’s dark past, that Josie begins to be haunted by the things she has tried so hard to forget. From the beginning, it was obvious that it wasn’t all just about finding the truth about who the killer was. It was much more than that. Kathleen, through this brilliant thriller, not only thrusts suspenseful scenes and entertains the reader with impeccable writing, but she also carefully tackles important subjects like the importance of family, especially the bond of sisterhood, sacrifice, and also how lies, indiscretions and a death of a family member can all present themselves as the beginning of the end. But whose fault is it? To what lengths will the guilty party go to punish themselves? Only when I thought that it had all come to an end, one character’s letter is uncovered and it was enough to wreck my mood. It was the perfect ending, but also sad as hell. I had been longing to read more about this character ever since the start of the book, for it was so clear their role was quite a crucial one in the story, and so I was slightly disappointed as I leafed through the pages because they weren’t given the chance to say their part of the story, until there was this letter that connected all the dots and made everything fall into place. Obviously, Kathleen Barber knew what she was doing, and where to place each character. She’s just that kind of a genius. Sure, everything sought in the beginning is discovered at the end, but clearly it is not all sunshine and rainbows; the last ones standing still have flaws and doubts provoked by the past, and are clueless about how they’re going to go from here. Also, how will things be after numerous truths have come out? Will the characters be able to start over like all of this never happened? Will they be able to move on?
I liked how this author executed this novel. Reliving the past and throwing doubt amongst those listening and those whose past we are reexamining. It’s a past where life was once good but evil crept itself in, entering into more than one place and now to relive it, the pain stabs deep. The truth lies within these individuals and they must encounter some pain for them to be truly free. A podcast cast doubt on a murder case which had taken place thirteen years ago. The accused is serving his sentence in prison, his mother still shouts his innocence while the victim lays under his tombstone. The viewers begin to wonder if the right person is behind bars after listening to this podcast as Poppy Parnell, investigative reporter sheds light on the case. This is Poppy’s job and as she posts more of her informative podcasts, the attention to this closed case gets hotter. Eager yet hesitant, even those closest to the case tune in to these podcasts to hear what Poppy has uncovered. Thirteen years ago, twins Josie and Lanie’s father was murdered in their home. This set off a string of events which shattered their family. Josie left three years later. She’s had no contact with her mother or twin sister and now she reluctantly returns home for her mother’s funeral. Josie has lied to her boyfriend about her past which she feels is justified. She returns to her aunt’s home to await the funeral but the podcasts, her twin sister and her past are things which are creeping up on her and need to be addressed. I feel that Josie feels torn between family, the truth, and her current situation. Staying away from her hometown, she only dealt with life and now coming home, she has to deal with her mother and reliving the murder with the podcasts, she finds herself juggling too many things. Lanie, I disliked her from the beginning and the more I read, the more I hated her. I really enjoyed the story, it was more of a mystery to me than a thriller. I wanted to know what really happened thirteen years ago and I wanted to know how the novel would end. Like I said before, I liked the investigated reporter angle of this novel, I liked that doubt being thrown in as it messed with the minds of the masses, the parties involved in the case and us, the readers. It was a good read. Thank you NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for giving me a free e-copy of this novel to read. This review is my own opinion.
To be honest, I never listened to Serial. But that may be good, because I came into this book without a basis for comparison. The excerpts from the podcasts were some of my favorite parts of the book. If someone would make a transcript of Serial, I'd read it now. In Josie, Barber gives us a heroine it's impossible not to root for: her father was murdered, her life is now being shared with the public, and now her mother has committed suicide. She's not a perfect character, but she's certainly interesting. The book is fast-paced and well-written. I loved the book and can't wait to see what Barber comes up with next.
Are true crime podcasts just fun entertainment? After all these aren’t fictional characters, these are real people who have suffered real tragedies. Is it fair to families who have lost a loved one to murder and have had closure from the arrest and conviction of the murderer to have these cases re-examined in the public eye? Are You Sleeping examines exactly this situation. The family of the murder victim has moved on after the conviction of the murderer, although not without a lot of traumatic issues arising from the crime. They have been able to rebuild new lives for themselves until a new trending podcast about the murder dredges up the past and blows apart their lives once again. What really struck me as tragic is how the twin sisters who were the daughters of the victim kept pleading with the creator of the podcast, Poppy Parnell, to leave them alone and to let the case rest. Of course it is too popular and lucrative and she keeps at them like a dog with a bone. She’s downright rude and aggressive in trying to get interviews or at least sound bites from the family that she can use to promote her podcast. It’s pretty sickening to think that our fun Sunday afternoon listen might be the result of harassment of the victims. It makes me wonder if true crime should be entertainment at all. Obviously this book raised a lot of questions for me and made me think pretty seriously about the line between entertainment and ghoulish voyeurism. The story itself is very engaging and I was completely consumed by it. While the characters waited for a new podcast to be released I waited on the edge of my seat for it too. This was a real page turner that kept me up too late for several nights. Even when I wasn’t reading I was thinking about this story. I think it will colour my perceptions of true crime from now on and I will have a lot more compassion for the actual people involved. The characters in this story were not always likeable, quite the opposite really, but they were human and felt like real people going through real issues. The suspense was intense and I really didn’t want to stop until I reached the end. The conclusion wasn’t shocking but it felt realistic and probable. Readers expecting a big, unexpected twist at the end may be disappointed but I felt the ending fit well with the narrative and made sense for the characters. I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely be recommending it to my friends! Thank you to Gallery Books for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
4.25-4.5 STARS 13 years after her father’s murder, Josie Buhrman must face the past head-on, when an investigative reporter uses a serial podcast to raise questions and doubt over the guilt of his convicted murderer. Directly on the heels of the podcast airing, Josie’s absentee mother commits suicide, forcing Josie to return to her hometown and the estranged sister she happily left behind. But as new information comes to light, even Josie must admit that all is not exactly as it seems. The truth just might lie in her troubled sister’s sketchy memory, or in a clue hidden amongst her mother’s final possessions. With an intriguing and captivating premise, “Are You Sleeping” is a psychological thriller that had me enthralled from start to finish. But while the twisty storyline made for a suspenseful journey, in the end, it held not real surprises. Still, I found it to be an enjoyable read, and one that I would highly recommend.