Perchance to dream…
Childhood dreams come true in this intriguing time travel story with a difference.
Eileen has always had a crush on an actor from her childhood, Cal, who by now is in his eighties, while she is in her twenties.
By coincidence, they meet at one of her concerts as she’s a professional musician and later, a medical experiment gives Eileen the opportunity to go back in time and live in an alternative reality with a younger Cal in a dream world, but only for the duration of the experiment. Both will have to resume their real lives when they leave the dream life.
Vohn sets the scene well for this unusual and unconventional story, firstly telling us about Eileen’s infatuation with Cal and his films, but also bringing us into the here and now of a woman pursuing her musical career, and introducing her current life and her friends. We learn about her relationships with men, and through the point of view of her friends, we realise the extent of her obsession with Cal.
It’s a complex story, and, Vohn progresses it in different ways, not just by bringing Cal deeper into the story, but by using part of the scripts for one of his films as a medium for developing the narrative and deepening our understanding of the characters and the two conflicting eras that Eileen comes to inhabit.
Despite the quite different and drastic changes in scenes, time, and characters, the story keeps moving smoothly, and throughout, we follow Eileen’s troubled journey. Although the story is told in the first person, other characters, primarily Eileen’s friends and professional colleagues, are used to build up a bigger picture of her character and feelings, both through their dialogue and their actions. Vohn skilfully uses her secondary characters to add richness and detail.
Cal’s character is portrayed as always flawed, and Eileen always had an ideal in her mind. The big question posed by this novel was, what would happen in dreamland when she met the real Cal, not just the actor on the screen, the movie star of her childhood and teenage fantasies. And then, both Eileen and Cal have to face the even bigger question—how to resume their pre-dream life. For me, one of the strengths of the story was how Eileen tried to immerse herself back in her former life while struggling with wanting to still live with her dream life. Again, Vohn conveyed the raw feelings here with sensitivity and a certain sense of bleakness, as Eileen accepts the inevitable.
It’s a powerful and emotional story with no easily predictable ending, but there was perhaps only one realistic ending for a story like this. 5 stars.