Waking up daily, not knowing who you are or where you are, can be quite frightening. When the man in bed next to you is also a stranger, fear begins to take over.
In Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson, we follow the lives of Christine and Ben as they try to work through the horror of amnesia. Christine’s amnesia is much like that Drew Barrymore experienced in the movie titled 50 First Dates. However, in Christine and Ben’s life the humor is gone.
Every day Christine follows the same path, asks the same questions, and looks at the same pictures, hoping that something will strike that spark she needs to gain her life back. She does not remember anything past her 29th birthday, including her marriage and husband. The explanation she receives is that her amnesia stems from an accident, and as she asks further she is only more concerned.
Each day she retains what she has learned, but each morning she wakes up to the very same confusion. Ben leaves the house the same time each day, while Christine attempts to put her life together. A call from a young Dr. Nash, changes her life. At her meeting with him, she actually finds she has been secretly visiting him to help her find the answers.
One of his recommendations is that she writes in a journal daily, everything she does and anything she remembers of her prior life. He agrees to call her daily once her husband has left the house to remind her to look in her diary.
As she continues on this mind-bending journey, each day as she receives her call to look at the journal, she is always surprised at the notation on the first page. She cannot remember what it means. ‘Do not trust Ben.’ What could that possibly mean?
As the journal becomes her lifeline to the world, she finds bits of scattered memory returning. She finds that her loving husband has been lying to her; not only was her injury caused in a more horrifying way than he described, but she has a son as well. When asked about her best friend, his response was to assure her that she had moved away and that they had lost contact. This too appears to be a lie.
Why is this happening? Christine tries to find her own answers, yet she must begin at the very start each day. Danger seems to hang in the air. Is that oppressive doom coming from Ben, her husband of 22 years, or is there more to Dr. Nash than meets the eye?
Watson has done an admirable job with this novel at creating the hopelessness of feeling that comes to Christine as an amnesiac. Each day starts over with fear and concern, and even as she follows her clues to prepare her daily ritual, she is obsessed with finding out more. Almost afraid to sleep each night knowing what the next day will bring, she begins to rely on her journal, writing in it obsessively. It is her life and her memories and there is fear of the unknown should it disappear.
Her husband is still in the dark about her visits with Dr. Nash, and her small bits of recurring memories. She is not sure why, he is so patient and loving with her, yet she struggles to trust him.
The terror slowly builds as you immerse yourself in the hopelessness of the situation, and you feel both the pain and joys experienced as Christine begins to find pieces of her life. The story sucks you in for a roller coaster of emotion, and Watson keeps you guessing as to the suspense that is building.