Unfortunately, because Sleep Toward Heaven came in the midst of a Thanksgiving reading marathon of sorts, it probably didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time and it won’t get the attention it deserves here.
Amanda Eyre Ward’s novel follows the intersecting lives of three young women. Celia still hasn’t moved on from her husband’s murder, though she has bought a bikini, which is kind of like moving on. Karen, who’s tough life forced her to turn to prostitution, is on Death Row for killing Celia’s husband as well as a string of other men. And Franny has abandoned her job and fiance in New York to return to Gatestown, TX, and become the prison doctor, eventually treating Karen. Ward uses these characters to explore themes of acceptance and forgiveness.
I found Sleep Toward Heaven to be a pleasant and quick read, finished in just two or three days. To her credit, the author makes a group of would-be monsters on Death Row seem human. You almost feel for these women who have committed atrocious acts, but have regrets and fear their futures. At times I wasn’t sure how I felt about this though. Do I want to feel for murderers? But it takes talent to make these characters multidimensional and sympathetic. At the same time, you do get invested in the plights of Celia and Franny, who are lost and unsure of their places in the world after everything that’s happened to them.
However, for me, it’s not a long-term investment. I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, I just don’t know that it is one that will stick with me. In a year of many memorable books, this one doesn’t quite compete. Still, sometimes reading can just be a nice way to pass the time and this one was a very nice way to do so.