Sleepwalker

Reviewed by: 

Stuart, a 20-something dandy, is in love, and he’s about to become a father. The trouble is that his love interest and the mother of his child are two different women. His loutish drinking buddies and dysfunctional family hardly help matters.

From this intriguing mess emerges John Tomey’s Sleepwalker, a precocious, dark comedy set in a prosperous suburb of Dublin, Ireland. At first blush, Sleepwalker might remind readers of Roddy Doyle’s early novels, particularly The Snapper. In addition to sharing Doyle’s Gaelic focus, Tomey offers the same downbeat view of family and romance.

But he also treads close to the sub-genre of American novels concerning 20-somethings with too much disposable income. Stuart’s waking-up-each-morning-in-a-strange-apartment lifestyle will remind readers of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City; Tomey’s sneering portraits of parents in their early 50s rings of Bret Easton Ellis’s first few novels. Unease with materialism is a pulsating subplot within Sleepwalker. Every car has an improbable, bombastic name (i.e., Pretenzia, Pinacil). Stuart works as an ad-man for a shameless food marketer, and smart-ass commercial jingles pour from car radios.

Parents are social climbers, mostly interested in the earning-potential of their children’s suitors. Stuart’s best friend, Gary, lives off overly generous parents who enable his decadence. Indeed, Tomey is a clever social critic with a gift for droll digs at the upper middle class. In addition to high-end cars (noted above), Tomey pokes fun at other indulgences that have become tantamount to necessities. Cell phones are described as a “pandemic,” and Stuart achieves some measure of peace only after he discards his. The move of Stuart’s empty nest parents into a posh new home is described this way: “More space for less people. To a bigger garden, a grander house and a quieter estate, in search of space and privacy went the family who cried out for intimacy and shared burdens.”

Similarly, Tomey is pleased to draw a generational comparison between Stuart’s pampered mates and the rougher generation that preceded them. Stuart’s would-be father-in-law is described as “the type of man you expect to be one of twenty-six children, the only one not go to prison.” Tomey is indeed funny and perceptive, but his line of critique, by book’s end, grows predictable. Sleepwalker has other warts: First, it is a trim 150-page mini-novel sloshing around inside a 260-page book. In a plot-driven novel like this, readers do not need physical descriptions of every pub and person.

Certain plot twists and flashbacks are unnecessary, such as the flashback about Gary sleeping with Stuart’s first girlfriend. Readers already know that Gary is a troglodyte; the book is not enhanced by this digression or others like it. Another flaw is Sleepwalker’s narrative construct. The book is told by Tom, Stuart’s distant high-school chum. Yet this self-described “neutered narrator,” informed only by Stuart’s unplanned confession at an airport bar, is omniscient regarding the details of Stuart’s life and the motivations of each character. Tomey unhinges his narrative by climbing inside the head of the characters and then returning to the voice of half-informed Tom. He can’t have it both ways.

However, the pros of Sleepwalker, in balance, greatly outweigh the cons. It is a darkly funny and very smart book. Tomey could become his generation’s Roddy Doyle—a super-perceptive chronicler of a materially ascendant but troubled generation in Ireland.

Long Description: 

Stuart, a 20-something dandy, is in love, and he’s about to become a father. The trouble is that his love interest and the mother of his child are two different women. His loutish drinking buddies and dysfunctional family hardly help matters.

From this intriguing mess emerges John Tomey’s Sleepwalker, a precocious, dark comedy set in a prosperous suburb of Dublin, Ireland. At first blush, Sleepwalker might remind readers of Roddy Doyle’s early novels, particularly The Snapper. In addition to sharing Doyle’s Gaelic focus, Tomey offers the same downbeat view of family and romance.

But he also treads close to the sub-genre of American novels concerning 20-somethings with too much disposable income. Stuart’s waking-up-each-morning-in-a-strange-apartment lifestyle will remind readers of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City; Tomey’s sneering portraits of parents in their early 50s rings of Bret Easton Ellis’s first few novels. Unease with materialism is a pulsating subplot within Sleepwalker. Every car has an improbable, bombastic name (i.e., Pretenzia, Pinacil). Stuart works as an ad-man for a shameless food marketer, and smart-ass commercial jingles pour from car radios.

Parents are social climbers, mostly interested in the earning-potential of their children’s suitors. Stuart’s best friend, Gary, lives off overly generous parents who enable his decadence. Indeed, Tomey is a clever social critic with a gift for droll digs at the upper middle class. In addition to high-end cars (noted above), Tomey pokes fun at other indulgences that have become tantamount to necessities. Cell phones are described as a “pandemic,” and Stuart achieves some measure of peace only after he discards his. The move of Stuart’s empty nest parents into a posh new home is described this way: “More space for less people. To a bigger garden, a grander house and a quieter estate, in search of space and privacy went the family who cried out for intimacy and shared burdens.”

Similarly, Tomey is pleased to draw a generational comparison between Stuart’s pampered mates and the rougher generation that preceded them. Stuart’s would-be father-in-law is described as “the type of man you expect to be one of twenty-six children, the only one not go to prison.” Tomey is indeed funny and perceptive, but his line of critique, by book’s end, grows predictable. Sleepwalker has other warts: First, it is a trim 150-page mini-novel sloshing around inside a 260-page book. In a plot-driven novel like this, readers do not need physical descriptions of every pub and person.

Certain plot twists and flashbacks are unnecessary, such as the flashback about Gary sleeping with Stuart’s first girlfriend. Readers already know that Gary is a troglodyte; the book is not enhanced by this digression or others like it. Another flaw is Sleepwalker’s narrative construct. The book is told by Tom, Stuart’s distant high-school chum. Yet this self-described “neutered narrator,” informed only by Stuart’s unplanned confession at an airport bar, is omniscient regarding the details of Stuart’s life and the motivations of each character. Tomey unhinges his narrative by climbing inside the head of the characters and then returning to the voice of half-informed Tom. He can’t have it both ways.

However, the pros of Sleepwalker, in balance, greatly outweigh the cons. It is a darkly funny and very smart book. Tomey could become his generation’s Roddy Doyle—a super-perceptive chronicler of a materially ascendant but troubled generation in Ireland.

Reviewed by: 

Stuart, a 20-something dandy, is in love, and he’s about to become a father. The trouble is that his love interest and the mother of his child are two different women. His loutish drinking buddies and dysfunctional family hardly help matters.

From this intriguing mess emerges John Tomey’s Sleepwalker, a precocious, dark comedy set in a prosperous suburb of Dublin, Ireland. At first blush, Sleepwalker might remind readers of Roddy Doyle’s early novels, particularly The Snapper. In addition to sharing Doyle’s Gaelic focus, Tomey offers the same downbeat view of family and romance.

But he also treads close to the sub-genre of American novels concerning 20-somethings with too much disposable income. Stuart’s waking-up-each-morning-in-a-strange-apartment lifestyle will remind readers of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City; Tomey’s sneering portraits of parents in their early 50s rings of Bret Easton Ellis’s first few novels. Unease with materialism is a pulsating subplot within Sleepwalker. Every car has an improbable, bombastic name (i.e., Pretenzia, Pinacil). Stuart works as an ad-man for a shameless food marketer, and smart-ass commercial jingles pour from car radios.

Parents are social climbers, mostly interested in the earning-potential of their children’s suitors. Stuart’s best friend, Gary, lives off overly generous parents who enable his decadence. Indeed, Tomey is a clever social critic with a gift for droll digs at the upper middle class. In addition to high-end cars (noted above), Tomey pokes fun at other indulgences that have become tantamount to necessities. Cell phones are described as a “pandemic,” and Stuart achieves some measure of peace only after he discards his. The move of Stuart’s empty nest parents into a posh new home is described this way: “More space for less people. To a bigger garden, a grander house and a quieter estate, in search of space and privacy went the family who cried out for intimacy and shared burdens.”

Similarly, Tomey is pleased to draw a generational comparison between Stuart’s pampered mates and the rougher generation that preceded them. Stuart’s would-be father-in-law is described as “the type of man you expect to be one of twenty-six children, the only one not go to prison.” Tomey is indeed funny and perceptive, but his line of critique, by book’s end, grows predictable. Sleepwalker has other warts: First, it is a trim 150-page mini-novel sloshing around inside a 260-page book. In a plot-driven novel like this, readers do not need physical descriptions of every pub and person.

Certain plot twists and flashbacks are unnecessary, such as the flashback about Gary sleeping with Stuart’s first girlfriend. Readers already know that Gary is a troglodyte; the book is not enhanced by this digression or others like it. Another flaw is Sleepwalker’s narrative construct. The book is told by Tom, Stuart’s distant high-school chum. Yet this self-described “neutered narrator,” informed only by Stuart’s unplanned confession at an airport bar, is omniscient regarding the details of Stuart’s life and the motivations of each character. Tomey unhinges his narrative by climbing inside the head of the characters and then returning to the voice of half-informed Tom. He can’t have it both ways.

However, the pros of Sleepwalker, in balance, greatly outweigh the cons. It is a darkly funny and very smart book. Tomey could become his generation’s Roddy Doyle—a super-perceptive chronicler of a materially ascendant but troubled generation in Ireland.

Long Description: 

Stuart, a 20-something dandy, is in love, and he’s about to become a father. The trouble is that his love interest and the mother of his child are two different women. His loutish drinking buddies and dysfunctional family hardly help matters.

From this intriguing mess emerges John Tomey’s Sleepwalker, a precocious, dark comedy set in a prosperous suburb of Dublin, Ireland. At first blush, Sleepwalker might remind readers of Roddy Doyle’s early novels, particularly The Snapper. In addition to sharing Doyle’s Gaelic focus, Tomey offers the same downbeat view of family and romance.

But he also treads close to the sub-genre of American novels concerning 20-somethings with too much disposable income. Stuart’s waking-up-each-morning-in-a-strange-apartment lifestyle will remind readers of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City; Tomey’s sneering portraits of parents in their early 50s rings of Bret Easton Ellis’s first few novels. Unease with materialism is a pulsating subplot within Sleepwalker. Every car has an improbable, bombastic name (i.e., Pretenzia, Pinacil). Stuart works as an ad-man for a shameless food marketer, and smart-ass commercial jingles pour from car radios.

Parents are social climbers, mostly interested in the earning-potential of their children’s suitors. Stuart’s best friend, Gary, lives off overly generous parents who enable his decadence. Indeed, Tomey is a clever social critic with a gift for droll digs at the upper middle class. In addition to high-end cars (noted above), Tomey pokes fun at other indulgences that have become tantamount to necessities. Cell phones are described as a “pandemic,” and Stuart achieves some measure of peace only after he discards his. The move of Stuart’s empty nest parents into a posh new home is described this way: “More space for less people. To a bigger garden, a grander house and a quieter estate, in search of space and privacy went the family who cried out for intimacy and shared burdens.”

Similarly, Tomey is pleased to draw a generational comparison between Stuart’s pampered mates and the rougher generation that preceded them. Stuart’s would-be father-in-law is described as “the type of man you expect to be one of twenty-six children, the only one not go to prison.” Tomey is indeed funny and perceptive, but his line of critique, by book’s end, grows predictable. Sleepwalker has other warts: First, it is a trim 150-page mini-novel sloshing around inside a 260-page book. In a plot-driven novel like this, readers do not need physical descriptions of every pub and person.

Certain plot twists and flashbacks are unnecessary, such as the flashback about Gary sleeping with Stuart’s first girlfriend. Readers already know that Gary is a troglodyte; the book is not enhanced by this digression or others like it. Another flaw is Sleepwalker’s narrative construct. The book is told by Tom, Stuart’s distant high-school chum. Yet this self-described “neutered narrator,” informed only by Stuart’s unplanned confession at an airport bar, is omniscient regarding the details of Stuart’s life and the motivations of each character. Tomey unhinges his narrative by climbing inside the head of the characters and then returning to the voice of half-informed Tom. He can’t have it both ways.

However, the pros of Sleepwalker, in balance, greatly outweigh the cons. It is a darkly funny and very smart book. Tomey could become his generation’s Roddy Doyle—a super-perceptive chronicler of a materially ascendant but troubled generation in Ireland.