Wiersema, Robert J. 1970-
Wiersema, Robert J. 1970-
Home—Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Bolen Books, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, events coordinator, 1997—.
Before I Wake, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of articles and reviews to newspapers and magazines, including Globe and Mail, National Post, Vancouver Sun, and Quill & Quire.
An established book critic in Canada, Robert J. Wiersema received rave reviews for his first novel, Before I Wake. The story tells what happens when a three-year-old girl, Sherry Barrett, goes into a coma after being hit by a truck. Its driver, Henry, is driven to despair by the guilt he feels at causing this tragedy and attempts to jump off a cliff, but is prevented by a physical force he believes must be supernatural. Awed by this circumstance, Henry begins spending his time at the public library where he joins up with a group of supernatural beings. Meanwhile, Sherry is taken off life-support systems and is brought home to her mother, Karen, who cares for the girl on her own with some help from her friend Ruth. Soon, stories spread that Sherry has mysterious powers to heal—Ruth's arthritis is apparently cured, as is her sister's lung cancer. The plot thickens when a character known as Father Peter arrives on the scene and accuses the Barretts of blasphemy; the novel ends with an epic battle between the forces of good and evil.
A writer for Publishers Weekly found Before I Wake an "intelligent, contemplative supernatural thriller" with believable characters and a plot that … develops organically, revealing its secrets at just the right pace" and avoiding the cliches so often associated with the genre. Canadian Literature reviewer Barbara Pell, however, described the book's plot and characters as "unbelievable," deeming Karen's forgiveness "cheap" and Sherry's miracles "simply asserted" rather than intelligently explained. The novel, Pell concluded, is "good popular fiction, but literary popcorn." In Quill & Quire, on the other hand, Maureen Garvie wrote that "Wiersema makes his fantastic premise plausible by anchoring it solidly in the ordinary," and praised the compassion and sympathy with which he treats his characters.
In remarks quoted on his home page, Wiersema explained that, in his writing, he attempts to bridge the divide between serious and popular fiction, "to give readers stories that they're going to want to read—not that they should be reading—while not skimping on thematic elements, more complex narrative structures, more abstract themes and ideas." Before I Wake, Wiersema told Seattle Post-Intelligencer contributor Andrea Hoag, is "obviously quite serious and emotional … but it's not earnest. I think earnestness is a characteristic of a lot of ‘Can-Lit,’ and I just do not fall into that category." His primary interest, he remarked to Rachel Giese in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation feature, is narrative rather than style. "I like stories," he admitted. "I'm not a strong prose stylist…. I don't have the chops to write a beautiful objet. I write stories. That being said, [this book] is still grounded in the fundamentals…. It's rooted in strong characters and big ideas. But at the same time it's got the narrative momentum that I like."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, September, 2006, Nancy Wigston, review of Before I Wake, p. 37.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2007, review of Before I Wake, p. 194.
National Post, September 9, 2006, Eva Tihanyi, "The Disunited State of ‘In-Between,’" p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, March 19, 2007, review of Before I Wake, p. 39.
School Library Journal, August 2007, Sandy Schmitz, review of Before I Wake, p. 145.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 21, 2007, Andrea Hoag, "‘Before I Wake’ Author's Dreams Come True."
Armchair Interviews,http://reviews.armchairinterviews.com/ (December 2, 2007), Jake Chism, review of Before I Wake.
Book Patrol,http://www.bookpatrol.net/ (December 2, 2007), review of Before I Wake.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Web site,http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/ (December 2, 2007), Rachel Giese, "Rise and Shine."
Canadian Literature,http://www.canlit.ca/ (December 2, 2007), Barbara Pell, "Oprah Will Love It."
Midwest Book Review,http://www.midwestbookreview.com/ (December 2, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Before I Wake.
Quill & Quire,http://www.quillandquire.com/ (December 2, 2007), Maureen Garvie, review of Before I Wake.
Random House of Canada Web site,http://www.randomhouse.ca/ (December 2, 2007), Robert J. Wiersema profile.
Robert J. Wiersema Home Page,http://robertjwiersema.com (December 2, 2007).
Sunburst Award,http://www.sunburstaward.org/ (December 2, 2007), "Jurors for the 2008 Awards."