Reasons for Waking

Fiction - General
404 Pages
Reviewed on 06/27/2023
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Author Biography

Karen Foster was the oldest of six children in a military family. She held a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing, and she did postgraduate work in English. She worked as an editor and technical writer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many years, but she loved creative writing. Her true passion was raising, showing, and breeding English Springer Spaniels. Her affection for dogs is evident in Reasons for Waking, her first novel, completed shortly before she died in March 2022. Karen's siblings worked with her publisher, Bold Story Press, to ensure her book was published posthumously.
Karen's accomplishments are particularly remarkable given that she was blind at birth; six surgeries before age two restored just three percent of her vision. She never complained, and never sought special treatment or pity. She was fiercely independent until the end.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Reasons for Waking is a work of fiction in the Southern fiction, family saga, and interpersonal drama subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience and was penned by author Karen Foster. In this heartfelt tale about family dynamics, secrets, hurting, and healing, we discover how life has turned out for Philip, a reclusive man with a lot of pain in his past. He’s brought back into family life by a young woman touched by the same tragedy that sent Philip off on a lonely road, and together they begin to unpick the complex web of misunderstandings, assumptions, secrets and lies that have led to a difficult and prolonged silence.

Author Karen Foster has crafted a truly unique family drama like nothing else I’ve read this year, and one which has a poignant message about openness, communication, and the danger of not speaking up when you really should. One of the features that most impressed me in this emotionally intelligent work was its commitment to character, as every figure in the family and those close acquaintances around them all seemed totally realized with their own personality, dialogue style, attitudes, and values. The layers of realism surrounding the estranged Philip make the impact all the more enjoyable when he’s able to dig deep and break down some of the walls he’s built for himself. Combining this with the hardships, struggles, and tearjerking moments of pure emotion, Foster delivers a stellar drama in Reasons for Waking that is both highly recommended and not to be missed.

Jamie Michele

Reasons for Waking by Karen Foster revolves around Philip Rutledge, an English teacher at Grainger University in Virginia who has secluded himself in a small town. He has meticulously constructed emotional walls to the point of being so consequentially unsympathetic that even immense tragedy does little to shake him. A single email changes this. Emily Warner reaches out about a shooting many years prior that left two people seriously injured and a child dead. Emily's father was the shooter, and Philip's brothers and father were his victims. Philip's desire not to revisit this or any part of his past is broken down somewhat due to Emily's persistence. When Philip is met with answers to questions that only raise further questions from his secretive and politically connected family, what darkness might be uncovered while digging is left to be seen.

The pairing of a man who shows little emotion for victims with a young woman who shows deep emotion for perpetrators makes for a compelling twist in Reasons for Waking by Karen Foster. The pacing of the story is intentionally unhurried so that we have a full and complete understanding of who Philip is both by nature and nurture, or a lack thereof when he returns to his childhood home. His point of view is in the first person and the connection and love he has for his dog Dilsey, as well as the layers Emily chips away at, begin to restore Philip's repressed emotion humanize him. Personally, I found his character arc to be more fulfilling than Emily and the “project” but one could not occur without the other. There is ambiguity about what justice means to different people and what its price forces a reader to think about; how many lives are worth seeking it, or if in seeking it more are spared. We cannot know that but what I'm certain of is that Reasons for Waking is a wonderful read, and I'm certain those who pick it up will feel the same.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Reasons for Waking by Karen Foster is Southern fiction at its best. Philip Rutledge is an English teacher at Grainger University in Virginia. He’s pretty reclusive, trying to escape his past, barely acknowledging anyone, even when a devastating fire kills students at a campus dorm. Out of the blue, a woman called Emily Warner emails him with information about a shooting 10 years ago – the same shooting that affected his life. He is suddenly forced to face his past, the family he walked away from, and the demons that followed him to Virginia. As the details of that night unfold, Philip learns that he was never told the full truth and, slowly, his family’s secrets and lies are exposed. When the truth comes out, will it allow Philip to finally live his life and where does Emily fit in?

Reasons for Waking by Karen Foster is an intriguing story, utterly compelling as it runs the full gamut of human emotions. It is full of action-packed scenes, each chapter drawing you deeper into the story. It won't take you long to become fully invested in Philip and Emily as they discover the truth behind the tragic events, pulling closer together to face the truth. The characters are amazing, really well-developed, and likable. As the tale unfolds, so do their stories, and you’ll get to know them personally. If you are anything like me, you will be captivated and will struggle to put this book down. It’s a suspenseful tearjerker full of emotion and plenty of twists and turns.