Life certainly moves at its own pace, and yet how can it be May already? It's still chilly here in the Northeast, and my expectation is that we will just go straight to blistering summer. Spring is my least favorite season of the year! It is terribly unreliable, and yet we continue to put seeds in the ground hoping they will grow. Metaphors abound!
Which brings me to a novella by Karen Russell. Karen is a person of wild imagination. Last year we discussed Vampires in the Lemon Grove, an eclectic, positively reviewed group of short stories. Sleep Donation is her latest piece. And though I'm unsure of what makes a novella (other than marketing), this is a good story.
In a not too distant future, sleep has become a finite entity. Or imagine if sleep was like blood and sometimes you would run short due to an injury or surgery. In this case, the new need is sleep. At first there was an epidemic, and then a scientific discovery. So now sleep can be donated. And of course the purest, most untainted sleep comes from babies. The theory is that they have no life experience to give them nightmares.
There's nothing gruesome in this thought-provoking story. The tale follows a woman who leads donation drives and a family who is one her most successful donors. I imagine it would make a great story to debate in an ethics class or spark good discussion at a book club. Sleep, like blood, organs or marrow, seems an area where money and politics shouldn't enter--which is not true. Imagine if sleep became an even more precious commodity?
Karen Russell won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction and her first novel, Swamplandia! was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. Sleep Donation is only available electronically.