The author of the Man Booker Prize-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North returns with a novel about Anna and her aged mother, who is dying while subjected to increasingly desperate medical interventions. The hospital window provides a respite, allowing Anna's mother—and eventually Anna herself—to disappear into visions of horror and delight.
... intriguing ... Flanagan...turns climate change’s harsh realities into rivers of words, and also magical visions ... The result is a beguiling book that takes time to settle but is hard to forget. It feels at first like a dizzying collage ... But in the end, like Flanagan’s best work...the novel grounds itself in humane ideals. Love. Hope. Dignity. These values emerge as if they were part of the mystery, slowly, with clues that pile up behind a curtain of flames ... The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, like Jonathan Franzen’s best novels, quietly traces a societal rift around wealth and what amounts to a 'good life' ... The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is especially strong when its characters—and the reader—actually linger to lament what’s gone or going ...
If there is hope in The Living Sea of Waking Dreams...it may be found in that simple admonition. Look extinction in the face and find meaning in what we have left.
... [a] gorgeous, mesmerizing new novel ... So much is going on in this novel, yet Flanagan never misses a beat. His language is drum-tight, his ear for prose rhythms impeccable ... Death broods over this novel; the reader senses Flanagan’s eye on the clock, his preoccupation with his own mortality. And yet the mosaic of life endures—fitful, imperiled, but also joyous. Transformations are everywhere in The Living Sea of Waking Dreams. Flanagan saves his most intriguing reveals for the later chapters ... Flanagan has given us a novel that’s inventive and lyrical, a dark meditation on where we are and where we may be headed. The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is his finest work yet.
... kaleidoscopic ... it is a book that aspires, as well, to the ineffable ... It’s tempting, in the face of all this desolation, to see Francie’s suffering as a metaphor for the limits of technology, which are the limits of imagination, or perhaps of our willingness to engage the hard reality of death. But that’s too narrow a reading of this provocative and disturbing book ... For Flanagan, it is this loss—of touch, of contact—that is the tragedy, the way technology abstracts us, renders us objects, or problems to be solved.