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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Robert Woodard pens an adventurous dystopian novel in Sleeping Through the Nightmare. Pete Gibbons wakes in pain and is extremely cold, with no idea where he is or what has happened. As his mind and body begin to thaw, Pete recalls working at a top-secret research facility in the middle of the Arizona desert. He was an engineer working on the development of a Cryogenic Unit. When Pete had completed his work, he was asked to become the first human test subject. He was placed in the chamber and remembers little after that. With regained awareness of his plight, Pete exits the room and soon realizes he has slept through the devastation of humankind. Everyone is gone, leaving only the skeletal remains of the life he once knew. Meanwhile, April lives on a sailboat with her parents. They are the sole survivors of their group. A deadly virus eradicated the world’s population long before April was born, and all April knows is the ocean. She and her parents, Gus and Barbara, land from time to time to gather whatever supplies they can find. They have never seen any “land people.” April fears that one day she will be the sole survivor of humanity. As time goes by, Pete learns to live off the land, and April continues to sail the sea. Both are desperate to escape loneliness, and Pete and April wonder if there is someone else out there to fulfill the longing of their hearts.
What happens when a time-forgotten landlubber and a young creature of the sea meet? No, this is not a revised version of The Little Mermaid. Far from it, Sleeping Through the Nightmare, penned by Robert Woodard, is no fairytale! It contains both adventure and suspense, hopeful and fearful in equal measure. It is sentimental and heartbreaking, but most importantly, it is the end of what we know and the beginning of the unfathomable. The narrative captivates you from the beginning to the end. Woodard’s vivid descriptions invite the reader into the setting. The world as we know it is gone: these characters are born and raised in different times and placed into diverse backgrounds - the land versus the sea. The characterization is as unique as the setting. Both main characters are internally conflicted, each vulnerable, believing they will be the sole survivor of humanity. Yet, they both press forward into an unknown future, with an innate will to survive. Pete has dogs to keep him company (which I loved), while April has her parents, but for how long?
The plot climaxes when the land and the sea meet. When Pete's and April’s lives collide, the story intensifies. The self-taught, strong-willed, feisty sea woman challenges the innovative, hard-working, yet easy-going, century-old landlubber. The loyalty and companionship of the dogs and the adoring understanding father figure aid in the growth and relationship of the main characters. As the story ends, the reader is left satisfied yet anticipating what is to come. Robert Woodard’s Sleeping Through the Nightmare was an engrossing reading experience.