Give Them Unquiet Dreams

Young Adult - Paranormal
262 Pages
Reviewed on 07/29/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Give Them Unquiet Dreams is a paranormal coming of age novel for young adults written by James Mulhern. Aiden Glencar was quite certain that his mom shouldn’t be locked up in McCall’s, a mental institution outside Boston. They had diagnosed her as being schizophrenic because of the visions she was experiencing about a man who needed help. Fourteen-year-old Aiden went to live with his Nana, his mom’s mother, and his older brother, Martin, had gone to live with their Aunt Clara. Aiden also had the gift of sight. The ghost of his grandpa visited him at night. Grandpa was in many ways the mentor Aiden needed so badly, especially with his father distancing himself further and further away from his two sons. It was 1976, and mental illness was not really understood, was considered a stigma and a source of familial shame. Aiden also had other issues he wished he could share with someone, even his no-nonsense, earthy Nana, but he seemed to be lacking the words to start. First he needed to get his mom out of McCall’s and back at home with them, and he would figure out a way to do just that.

Give Them Unquiet Dreams is a moving and evocative tale about a young adult coming of age in 1976, under the care of his brash and unorthodox grandmother, while his own mom is institutionalized. Mulhern brings the seventies back to life particularly well in this story as his character wrestles with the social implications of a mother in an insane asylum and his own worries about his inherited second sight and other issues. The author peoples this world with unforgettable characters, from Nana’s zany group of friends, to the quiet and supportive relationships between Aiden and Martin, and Aiden and his departed grandfather. After reading the blurb, I knew this book would be special, but had no idea just what a marvelous read it would actually be. Give Them Unquiet Dreams is brilliant; it’s most highly recommended.

Lit Amri

"You must get your mother out of McCall's. Like you, she has second sight. She was demonized, and we can't let that happen to your ma.” Give Them Unquiet Dreams by James Mulhern is set in 1976, Boston, where 14-year-old Aiden Glencar has the ability to see spirits-both good and bad. His mother, Laura, also has the gift but is deemed as a schizophrenic and admitted into a psychiatric hospital. His dead grandfather, who visits him at night, insists that Aiden get her out of there. Unfortunately, even with the help of family and friends, the plan fails. His Nana eventually brings his mother home for good, a reunion that Aiden’s family deserves. Yet things don’t get easier, as they wade through unexpected changes and loss in the family.

The story premise is intriguing, where the paranormal theme-infused with Irish lore-is balanced with the message of familial bonds, faith, and self-acceptance. Mulhern’s characters are well developed with vivid personalities. Smart but meek compared to his older brother, Aiden’s complexity is a given. On top of his unusual family dynamics and his second sight, he’s struggling with his sexual orientation. However, his situations mature him, evident in the way he handles difficult moments. As the years pass, there are good plot twists in Aiden’s life as a 54-year-old English teacher, particularly regarding a ghost that had long haunted his mother. Catherine Mulroy, Aiden’s Nana, is another character that stands out for me. She’s a flawed but admirable matriarch, who looks after her family in her own way. Simply put, Mulhern’s Give Them Unquiet Dreams is an eerie but emotional read.

Ankita Shukla

Give Them Unquiet Dreams by James Mulhern is the story of a young man named Aiden. He has a rare sight that enables him to see spirits. The spirit of his grandfather, who had the same ability, tells him that it's a gift; however, Aiden is not so sure if he can consider it a gift. His mother, who can see the spirits as well, has been admitted to an insane asylum because of this unique gift. Now he lives with his grandmother, while his brother, Martin, lives with their dad's sister, Aunt Clara. Apart from this ability, Aiden has one more secret that he wishes to share with his brother; he just doesn't know how to tell Martin. The spirit of his grandfather visits him often and one day tells him to free his mother.

The narration by the author is incredible. Instead of just getting to the main plot, he has made the characters a part of readers' lives. Aunt Clara and the quirks of Aiden's grandmother are quite entertaining. Aiden's dilemma regarding his sight has been made understandable by sharing the consequences that his mother went through. There is so much depth in the plot that one cannot help but be hooked to the plot. The kids' attempt to free their mother from the psychiatric hospital is written with a lot of finesse. There are several twists to keep readers engaged and turning the pages. I would recommend Give Them Unquiet Dreams by James Mulhern to readers who enjoy a plot with a lot of depth, life lessons, and intrigue.

Christian Sia

Give Them Unquiet Dreams by James Mulhern is a paranormal story set in 1976, featuring very compelling and sophisticated characters and a strong conflict with psychological underpinnings. Fourteen-year-old Aiden knows that he won't have any peace until his mother is released from a psychiatric institution outside of Boston. His mother has been put there by his grandmother who thinks she is schizophrenic because of her gift of seeing ghosts. The spirit of Aiden’s grandpa visits him at night to stress the fact that he must free his mom. Determined to rescue his mother, Aiden enlists the help of his grandmother’s female friends, his brother, Martin, and a cat named Arthur. In spite of the challenges in his plan, he succeeds in bringing his mother home. But the journey is just beginning and will involve loss, pain, loss of faith, and a meaningful experience.

James Mulhern has created characters that readers will love and a very thought-provoking tale that reflects the suffering many gifted persons go through. Every gift comes with a cross and young Aiden quickly learns this truth from his mother’s experience. The conflict is strong — mostly emotional and psychological — and the author uses it to deepen the themes of family and rejection. Give Them Unquiet Dreams is beautifully plotted and the reader has a clear idea of the character curve, the development of the conflict, and the satisfying denouement. I enjoyed the drama, the dreamlike atmosphere that permeates the writing, and the way the author explores the humanity of the characters. This is a story with a powerful lesson on claiming and accepting one’s gifts, even if they are far from what is considered to be normal.

Louanne Piccolo

Give Them Unquiet Dreams by James Mulhern is a paranormal young adult novel exploring personal growth and the courage to move forward no matter what obstacles life throws into your path. Aiden and his older brother Martin are living in different homes after their mother has been sent to a psychiatric institute for seeing ghosts. However, Aiden’s mother is not mentally ill; she has the gift of being able to see and communicate with people who have passed on – a gift which Aiden has inherited from her. Aiden decides to save his mother with the help of his grandmother’s friends and his brother. Although the attempt at breaking his mother out of the institute goes well, events out of Aiden’s control come together and test Aiden’s strength and beliefs. Will Aiden rise above life’s challenges or will he crumble?

Action packed and character driven, Give Them Unquiet Dreams is well suited to a young adult audience. The themes of fitting in, coping with life’s difficulties and acceptance of things that cannot be changed are problems that all young adults struggle with daily. In this book, James Mulhern has set the tone for a hopeful novel featuring a character who in the second half of his life seeks meaning, balance and acceptance of mortality. The characters are well rounded and believable. I admired Martin’s maturity and love for his brother, felt deeply for Aiden, and loved their sassy and wise grandmother. Her advice to “keep calm and carry on” in the most difficult of situations, not only serves Aiden in his time of need, but also teaches young readers to make lemonade when life serves them with lemons.