The Waking
Mike Nichols
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The Waking

Mike Nichols
William Morrow & Co.
336 pages
June 2002
rated 2 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The subtitle on its jacket calls The Waking by Mike Nichols ďA novel of suspense.Ē But frankly, if you have to tell readers what kind of novel youíve written, maybe you didnít do a very good job writing in the first place.

Curled Up With a Good BookNewspaper columnist and first-time novelist Nichols, tells the story of Will Dunby, whose wife, Sandy, has just driven her car off of a cliff. Her lover, whom Sandy had stopped seeing shortly before the accident, is later found shot to death nearby.

Will, a reporter, takes it upon himself to unravel the mystery, and he, along with police and a district attorney, think the loverís death and Sandyís accident are somehow linked to a woman who Sandy, a lawyer, had been working with. The story also involves Sandyís law partner, Haley (also Willís ex-girlfriend), a stern but fair judge, a somewhat shady police detective, and other stock types.

Throughout it all, Sandy remains in a coma so that her husband can gaze upon her half-living body and reflect on the various ups and downs of their courtship and marriage.

Itís not that The Waking is necessarily a bad book. Itís certainly readable and the story is compelling enough. But it seems stale and almost none of the characters are engaging. The most interesting person in the book is Sandy, who the frequent flashbacks reveal as a troubled, complicated, but ultimately sympathetic woman. The second most interesting character is Sandyís childhood home, where she and Will live. Raised a rich woman, Sandyís home has become a landmark in town, and its size and elegance spur the envy of almost everybody, including Will.

But Nichols doesnít develop the other characters enough, including Will. Watching a loved one slowly succumb to death is a frustrating, painful process, but Nicholsís writing invokes impatience, not pathos. Like most of the novel, the marriage is uninvolving and unconvincing.

The ending, in which Will quickly explains the mysteries at the bookís center, is even worse. Without revealing anything, it has the feel of an episode of ďMurder, She Wrote,Ē in which a seemingly minor character turns out to be a criminal mastermind. Nichols may have a good book in him, and lets hope he writes it someday. But this isnít it.

© 2002 by Amanda Cuda for Curled Up With a Good Book

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