The night has always been Abby Whitman's enemy. As a young girl she set a fire while sleepwalking that destroyed her family's home and scarred her sister for life. She's been free of the disorder for years, until the night she awakens in the driver's seat at the scene of a fatal accident. Is she responsible for the death of a senator's son? Or is there much more to the story? Her search for the answers will put both her and Jason Coble, the psychiatrist determined to help her, in danger -- and the truth will shake her small Southern town to it's foundation.
Susan gives an overview of the book:
The house where Abby Whitman’s family lived wasn’t like the plantation houses in the movies. There was no sweeping staircase and grand foyer. The house did have two sets of stairs. The second was at the back of the house -- it was for servants “back in the day,” as Abby’s daddy said. The foyer stairs was fancier, sure, but it was no Tara.
It was at the bottom of the foyer stairs that Abby’s mother stopped her and held her by the shoulders.
Confused and disoriented, Abby tried to pull away. She didn’t know why panic was squeezing the breath from her lungs. She shouldn’t be afraid of Momma.
“Abby. Abby, stop,” her mother’s voice was quiet, but Abby heard something underneath; a dark whisper of fear.
Abby’s eyes began to focus. Her mother was smiling, but her eyes looked scared. Momma was never scared.
Abby’s stomach took a roller coaster plunge.
“You’re sleepwalking again, sweetie,” Momma said. “Let’s get you back to bed.”
That was when Abby saw the heavy front door standing open and understood why Momma was so upset. Abby had been outside in the dark. Outside where there were gators and snakes and a river to drown in. Outside where there was quicksand and woods to get lost in.
Every night when she went to bed, Abby promised herself she wouldn’t sleepwalk. And then she prayed that God would fix her. Promises and prayers weren’t doing any good. This was the second time in a week Abby had wandered in the night. The last time she’d woken up in the hayloft in the barn.
When they reached the top of the stairs, Great Gran Girault was there waiting.
Abby had been hoping now that she was eleven she’d grown out of being scared of Gran Girault. But sure as the moon, she hadn’t. Gran had to be a hundred; tall and thin with weathered skin sagging on her bones. Her white hair was always in a bun – even in her nightgown.
She lived in Louisiana, where they believed in things like evil spells and devil’s curses. One time when she was visiting, Abby had found a little pouch under her pillow one morning. When she’d opened it, it had tiny bones and some dried weeds and a rock in it. It smelled funny. Momma had been really mad when she found out.
Almost always when Gran looked at Abby, it was with a frown.
Now Gran looked at Abby with a frown so intense it made the hair on the back of her neck prickle.
“I tell you, Betsy,” Gran said, her voice like sandpaper on rocks, “you need to do somethin’. It ain’t natural, her creepin’ ‘round here in the night like she does. Starin’ eyes like she’s possessed.”
“Shush, Gran!” Momma kept them walking right past Gran.
Abby’s room was next to her sister Courtney’s. She was six and everybody always said she’s “cute as a button.” Court never went sleepwalking. And Gran Girault never looked at her with a frown.
Momma tucked Abby into bed and kissed her on the forehead.
Abby pulled the sheet up to her chin, clutching it like it was a rope that might keep her tied in bed. “Gran hates me.”
Her mother ran a hand over Abby’s hair. “Gran is old and confused. You mustn’t pay attention to her. Besides, she’s going home tomorrow.”
The smile on Momma’s face said she was happy about it. That made Abby feel just a little better.
“Good night.” Her mother left the room, closing the door behind her.
Abby rolled onto her side, determined to stay awake all night, that way she couldn’t sleepwalk. At first she didn’t even blink. But soon her eyelids grew heavy. She tried counting the flowers on her wallpaper. But they started to run together.
She closed her eyes – just for a minute….
When Abby opened her eyes. It was daylight.
A car door slammed outside. Daddy was taking Gran Girault to the train station. Abby got up and watched the car pull down the lane, feeling like a dark and dangerous storm had finally blown away.
Always at Sunday evening dinner, right before grace, Abby’s family lit the oil lamp that was as old as their house. It was tradition, her daddy told her it was in honor of those Whitmans who’d gone off to war and never come home. It had been a custom he was passing along, just like he would pass this house to Abby someday.
Today was Abby’s first time to light the oil lamp. Naturally, Courtney had a hissy over it. She never liked it when Abby got to do something she didn’t – which wasn’t often.
At bedtime, Court was still pouting. And Abby climbed into bed with a smile on her face. She could hear Momma in the next room, telling Courtney that when she turned eleven, she’d get to light the lamp every other Sunday.
Courtney whined that it wasn’t fair. Abby hoped Momma and Daddy wouldn’t give in like they usually do. Abby had had to wait until after her eleventh birthday. Court should have to too.
Abby drifted off to sleep feeling really good; not only did she get the special privilege of lighting the lamp, but Gran Girault wasn’t here to give her the stink-eye if she happened to go sleepwalking again. It was a good day.
Abby opened her eyes. Stinging smoke caused her to close them again. An orange glow flickered in the smoke. There was heat at her back -- and the sound of crackling dragon breath.
She opened her eyes in tiny blinking slits to see where she was. Darkness and smoke blotted out everything.
For a second she stood there, panic squeezing her chest. Then she remembered. She dropped to her knees. The smoke wasn’t as bad here. She even recognized the living room rug.
She’d been sleepwalking.
The fire was in the dining room.
She had to get everyone out!
She opened her mouth to yell for her parents, but breathing in felt like a cat was clawing her lungs. She coughed until she nearly threw up.
Suddenly she heard Courtney screaming. In the back of the house. On the other side of the dining room.
Abby tried to crawl through the dining room, feeling her way along, but it was too hot. She turned around and started crawling back the way she’d come, but she bumped into a piece of furniture. It was hot. So hot. So painful.
In a panic she got to her feet and tried to feel her way to the door. The smoke tore at her lungs. She smelled her hair being singed.
She had to get out.
Courtney was still screaming.
Abby thrashed forward, flailing her arms. She heard china break.
And then she found the door.
Help Court. Wake Daddy.
Dizziness made her stumble. She felt like she was trying to breathe under water.
She tripped over something and fell face first onto the living room rug.
The crackling was getting louder.
She heard Daddy calling her name, over and over, until she couldn’t hear anything at all.
Crandall weaves a tight and suspensful story that will have readers guessing until the last chapter. Poignant in places and nail-bitingly tense in others, this is one of those books readers...