Sleepaway: A Novel (Paperback)

Sleepaway: A Novel By Kevin Prufer Cover Image

Sleepaway: A Novel (Paperback)


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A haunting debut novel from celebrated poet Kevin Prufer.

It’s 1984, and the invisible mists are falling, mists that cause people to slip into dreamless slumber—sleeps from which most, but not all, awaken. Those who do wake live in fear of the next mist, and the next, each a little longer and more dangerous than the last.

Alternating between the perspectives of a kleptomaniac waitress named Cora and her twelve-year-old friend Glass, Sleepaway depicts a small-town America turned alarming. This is a place where loved ones are lost to a state between life and death; where denial, delusion, and desperation take hold of those remaining; where dealers of the antisleep drug Eight Track disappear into shadows, and a murderous wannabe kingpin hunts for victims.

As civilization is shaved away one sleep storm at a time, people struggle to go on, making and losing allies and discovering new strengths and weaknesses. Cora sets out on an ill-fated road trip hoping to reclaim her sister’s love, only to discover a more powerful bond than blood. Glass, having lost his only parent to one of the first mists, searches for a stability he has never had and may never achieve. All the while, buildings rise outside town to cope with the mounting number of sleepers. Some see them as hospitals, others as repositories, and yet soon the air around them fills with ash.

An allegory for post-pandemic America, Sleepaway grapples with questions concerning friendship, race, and family amid the horror of inexplicable, arbitrary annihilation.
Kevin Prufer is the author of several books of poetry, including The Fears, The Art of Fiction, How He Loved Them, Churches, In a Beautiful Country, and National Anthem. He is a professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston and the low-residency MFA at Lesley University. Prufer has also edited several volumes of poetry and, with Wayne Miller and Martin Rock, curates the Unsung Masters Series, a book series devoted to bringing the work of great but little-known authors to new generations of readers.
Product Details ISBN: 9781946724717
ISBN-10: 1946724718
Publisher: Acre Books
Publication Date: April 19th, 2024
Pages: 184
"A compelling, propulsive apocalyptic novel that plunges into the heartland of human complexity. Written in careful, spare prose, with intelligence and wit, Sleepaway raises important questions about how we deal with sickness and healing and, most importantly, about the human condition. What a book Sleepaway is!"
— Brandon Hobson, author of "Where the Dead Sit Talking"

Sleepaway is a truly frightening horror novel, but written with such gentle melancholy and sweetness that the dread only slowly envelops the reader. Sleepaway is also a great poetic novel about the end of childhood, that uncanny transition we all make--and about what that might feel like in the last days--and it all converged in a way that slew me. I will never forget that ending.”
— Dan Choan, author of "Ill Will"

"Prufer paints beautifully the solace of found family after loss, the ways we both fail and step up to take care of each other. In a poet’s voice, here aches the bittersweet awareness of how few moments we have alive. Here glows how we choose to love in the moments we have left.”
— Brenda Peynado, author of "The Rock Eaters"

“Novels this haunting, this unsettling, are rarely delivered with the poetic grace on display in Sleepaway. Sweet lord—I was not ready. In the tradition of Saramago’s Blindness, Sleepaway is as insightful as it is entertaining, and ultimately succeeds both as a post-pandemic metaphor and a page-turner. Renowned poet Kevin Prufer has created a novel that will grip the reader from its opening and continue to resonate long after its haunting last line is read.” 
— Mat Johnson, author of "Pym" and "Invisible Things"

"An incurable, inexplicable condition brings humanity to the breaking point in Kevin Prufer’s novel . . . . Sleepaway is a haunting story about how people deal with upheaval, loss, and the threat of imminent, unnatural death."
— Foreword Reviews

“Renowned poet Prufer’s debut novel is an excellent, slow-moving apocalyptic narrative. . . . Constantly intriguing, this a superbly original parable about the recent collective experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
— Booklist

"This slim, artful novel by Prufer, a poet, imagines a world consumed by a peculiar viral phenomenon. . . . Though Prufer doesn’t attempt to deliver a clear message about society in a crisis, the book is suffused with anxiety over our collective inability to respond cohesively to collective ills. A taut and piercing dystopian tale."
— Kirkus Reviews