Wednesday, May 5, 2010


 Faith in Books is my new blog that reviews books from a Christian faith perspective. Currently, I am attempting to review a nonfiction book one week followed by a work of fiction. I would love to hear from you! You can also check out my daily devotional blog.

Dormia by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Dormia is about a boy named Alfonso who sleepwalks. But this isn't your typical sleepwalker. In fact, Alfonso is more active, agile and athletic when he sleeps than when he is awake. To make matters worse, he can't seem to control when he falls asleep and often wakes up in the midst of dangerous places. The book tells the story of Alfonso and his adventures while trying to reach the country of Dormia. The people of Dormia have the ability to do incredible physical activity while sleeping. As one character puts it, they save their decision making and creativity for their waking states.  But they are clearly capable of greater things in their sleep.

My Personal Impressions 

I came across this book in a most unusual way. One of the authors --  Peter Kujawinski -- came to my son's school and spoke to the 2nd through 5th graders. My son received an autographed copy. Now, please don't tell him that I have raced through the book and finished it in time for this review. My son (who is eight) has absolutely enjoyed this book and I have loved watching him bask in the adventure and get excited with each new dangerous plot twist.

The question in your minds is: will an adult enjoy reading this, too?

Well, if you are looking for deep, descriptive fiction then this is not the story for you. However, if you are young-at-heart reader who loves fantasy and adventure then you will fully enjoy this book. This book is especially good for a generation raised on video games as the plot is fast-paced and exciting. Best of all, this book ends. In other words, there will be at least two more books but you can read this one without an annoying final cliff-hanger -- thank you Halpern and Kujawinski!

I am wanting to say more about the story but I don't want to give too many things away! This is not a book for very young children as there are some violent scenes and characters have to cope with the death of friends and loved ones. In addition, there are issues of moral decisions, justice, addictions and loneliness.

The book is slim on describing some of the settings and the characters often are a bit exaggerated. The characters could have used some additional fleshing out and perhaps at least one or two with a more caring demeanor. However, Alfonso's own struggle to make decisions, trust others and accept his own abilities is very appealing. The writers certainly know how to tell a tale and almost every chapter has a great cliffhanger, making the book hard to put down.

In addition, there is also a very cool website which contains more details of the book, a fan site, maps, songs and a neat contest among other things.

How Dormia speaks to my own faith as a Christian

The whole concept of sleeping and being active in one's sleep is actually very biblical. Ever since reading the book, I have been thinking about biblical stories that have to do with dreams and sleepwalking. The ones that come immediately to my mind are:
  • God's covenant with Abram (Genesis 15: 12ff) occurs while Abram is sleeping.  
  • Jacob dreams of a ladder (or a stairway) going up to heaven (Genesis 28:10 ff) and hears of God's promise to give him offspring and land. 
  • I wonder if Jacob's own wrestling with the angel of the Lord might also have occurred while he was sleeping (see Genesis 32:22 ff).  
  • Joseph dreams of greatness which gets him in trouble, then he interprets dreams which give him the greatness of which he had dreamed (see the end of Genesis). 
  • Samuel hears God's voice while drifting off to sleep (and this semi-sleep state is also used as a plot device in Dormia) and thinks it is Eli calling him in I Samuel chapter three. 
  • God appears in dreams to Joseph and to the wise men in the story of the birth of Jesus (Matthew chapters one and two). 
  • Jesus himself sleeps through a storm but wakes up and calms the sea (Mark 4:35 ff). 
  • Later, Jesus admonishes the disciples for falling asleep while he is praying for God to take away the cup of suffering that he is about to receive (Mark 14:32 ff). 
  • And the story I always think about is Peter waking up in the prison with the angel telling him to get up and put on his shoes and follow him. "Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel's help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision" (Acts 12:9 NRSV).
Dreams are very important in the bible and reading Dormia makes me think again of how important dreams can be for my own faith. I wonder how many Christians have received answers to prayer in dreams, spoken with deceased loved ones and received comfort or had some type of vision or message that we fully believe is from God in our dreams. I realize that I probably only consider my waking state when communing with God. Why don't I include dreams? Perhaps I see it as a new-age kind of activity or a way that science -- psychology in particular -- tries to tap into our subconscious. Reading Dormia has reminded me not to dismiss what messages I can receive in my dreams. God may be trying to get through to me

What if we are, like Alfonso, capable of greater things in our sleep?  

Sweet dreams!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this blog...and yes, there have been times when I was struggling with an issue that God has spoken to me through my having me dream situations where I knew He was specifically giving me direction or pointing out some path for me to follow. My dreams are always a source of laughter for the family (usually very bizarre)but there are times that I know that God has spoken.
    I'm also glad that you mention the fact that Thomas is enjoying this book...our brain develops very differently through reading and it is of vital importance that we introduce our children to literature that is engaging and age-appropriate.