Sleeping Beauties: Chapters 13-16

[Sleeping Beauties Content Note: Trans Exclusion and Erasure, Misogyny, Violence Against Women]

Sleeping Beauties Recap: When this book first popped up on my radar, I expressed some concerns about the content on Twitter. This week, I purchased the book and read through it. As I read, I live-tweeted my thoughts on Twitter. This is a compilation and expansion of my tweets. The live-read will be spread out over multiple posts.

Sleeping Beauties, Part One: The Auld Triangle. Chapter 13-16

Chapter 13 begins and we return to your regularly scheduled apocalypse, where people are looting the local CVS for wakey meds. This puzzles me. Is that a thing most folks would do in this situation? You... you have to know that's not going to work, right? Wakey meds will get you another day, tops, and I'm not saying that's nothing but I'm not sure I buy immediately shooting the CVS pharmacist. (A thing that happens!)

Jared (teenage cinnamon bun) is driving the girl he loves to a grocery store to buy illicit speed drugs from an illicit speed drug dealer. Given that the illicit speed drug dealer is a woman, I find it very optimistic to assume she won't be hoarding her supply for herself. Money isn't exactly useful once you've slipped into a coma. The rest of Chapter 13 is sweet and painful and poignant and tearful.

Jared gets there and the woman has sold out hours ago and left; no speed for Mary. He takes her home and they kiss for the first time. Then he takes his neighbor kid Molly home (they've been driving Molly's grandmother's car) and grandmother is already a mummy. Molly is scared shitless, so Jared takes her back to his house to watch movies and stay awake as long as possible.

God, this would be such a better book if trans people existed? Because there would be reports of some men falling asleep and cocooning too, and men would be terrified to sleep too. As it is, we haven't yet seen a man taking uppers! They're all stealing coffee and energy drinks for their wives and daughters. But would you fall asleep assuming that this wouldn't affect you? Jared is selflessly keeping Molly up, but he ought to be keeping himself awake too, out of terror that this might hit him at any moment.

We've now seen two sets of cell mates in prison who are lovers, and I have questions because Google informs me this is complicated. Apparently in real life they separate inmates in a relationship, which seems cruel and awful, but American prisons ARE cruel and awful, so.

Like.... no? I don't... I'm pretty sure... no?

"although they didn't make love often these days, when they did, it was still good."

"6 Ways Women's Prison Is More Horrifying Than It Looks on TV"

"Sex Between Inmates Is Incredibly Common, Incredibly Unsexy"

"you've got about five minutes, tops, to get the job done."

I mean, a article isn't exactly Srs Research, but it's one of the top google results for "women's prisons", and I'm hearing that documentaries have backed up this personal account. Women in prison don't get to lounge in bed together.

I think I understand why the setting: there's a quote at the beginning about a man wanting to leave his prison to go to the women's prison. The men in the waking world are in a prison they can't leave (so to speak) and the women in the sleeping world are in their own prison. So it's a ~metaphor~ probably and that's why our setting is an actual prison. But... the inaccuracies trouble me.

Anyway, back to the scene: the prisoner lovers are all sweet and poignant and heart-breaking and this one misses her sleeping love.

There had been more than a dozen from men like Reed Barrows who suddenly found themselves the sole guardians of small male children. “Several of these feckless fools wanted me to explain to them how to feed their own children! This one idiot asks me if FEMA is setting up a facility to take care of kids because he’s got tickets for a—”

Oh god, men are calling 911 to ask basic childcare questions of the dispatcher on duty. The feminism is anvilicious and on the nose, but I mean, this would happen. I believe this in my heart of hearts.

“Janice is—out of commission. Long story. Hicks has gone off. Somehow I’ve ended up in charge of this place.”

[TW] Clint finally calls his (sheriff!) wife and doesn't tell her about the escaped rapist who drugged Janice. The fuck??

Chapter 15 opens with the fox character point of view, and like, this is the third time we've been in the fox and it's a good fox! Don't get me wrong, I like the fox! I just... I need to point out that there are more foxes in this novel than trans people. I'm sorry. I know I'm a big meanie ugly party pooper for harping on that. But I suggest a writing rule: Your novel should have at least as many trans people in it as it has foxes.

We slam cut to a women's bookclub which is still going on for unfathomable reasons (WHY?) and the women are ripping Ian McEwan a new one. "Who is Ian McEwan?" you are possibly thinking, because you have blocked out memories of the Fetus Hamlet book. That guy. Stephen King settling literary grudges against Ian McEwan in a fictional book club is something I needed in my life, so I am happy.

OH NO I SPOKE TOO SOON THEY LIKE THE BOOK. My popcorn has turned sour and bitter in my mouth. Aside from this betrayal, the scene is really good. Four elderly women with lives and personalities going out with a bang together. One of them even jokes how awful it would've been to go out on a bad book. It's touching and real and very human. I do appreciate that we're getting to see women's response to this plague, and not just experiencing it through the eyes of men. Good!

Oh god, this whole scene is. How do I even. *sucks in a deep breath* Ok. Remember Frank, the animal control guy who is a domestic tyrant and defaced a Mercedes over a hit-and-run cat? Frank who is apparently the only black man in this novel and who reads white to me? That Frank? We're back to him and his family.

Flashback: Frank was called out to find a rabid fox, and instead found a local redneck who drinks with him and spouts theories about Jews. I do not feel like racist rednecks who believe conspiracy theories about Jewish people chummy up with black drinking partners to do so??

[TW: animal abuse, spousal abuse, miscarriage] Redneck had hurt his dog, so Frank hurt HIM, so the redneck beat his spouse to miscarriage. Frank's wife blames him for this event and his temper and considers him a threat. (Because, I mean, he IS.) But all the rednecks in this little West Virginia town are fine with a black man who runs around beating white men up as he wills. I have never set foot in West Virginia so maybe this is accurate and believable, but it doesn't read that way to me. I'm like????

Frank is now angry because his estranged wife doesn't think it's a good idea for him to solicit advice about their sleeping daughter from the meth-using plastic surgeon whose Mercedes he violently defaced that morning. But Frank finds peace when he realizes that soon his wife will be asleep too and he will never again have to care about her opinions. I think we are not supposed to like Frank. I remind you that Frank is the only black man in this book, so far as I can tell.

A dismal comprehension touched Frank Geary: everything would be easier once Elaine was asleep, too. But for now she was awake. So was he. “You’re wrong,” he said. She blinked at him. “What? What did you say?” “You think you’re always right. Sometimes you are, but not this time.” “Thank you for that wonderful insight.

I do like Elaine. [Note: We are not supposed to like Elaine.]

Nana liked to sit near it in the rocker, doing her homework. When she was bent over her books with her hair curtaining her face, she looked to Frank like a little girl from the nineteenth century, back when all these man-woman things were a lot simpler.

The... The nineteenth century was 1800 to 1899. The civil war ended in 1865. Nana, like Frank, is black. This is some white nostalgia?? "Man-woman things" weren't simple under slavery! You couldn't even legally marry in many places, and you could be separated at any time! I just. This doesn't feel like a black man. Frank feels like a white man who had skin color applied for... for what? diversity? fuck. "I need to make ONE of these men black, so I'll randomly select the evil domestic tyrant" is not a good diversity approach.

Ok. Frank has found an axe and gone to batter in the door of the meth-using plastic surgeon to demand he look at Frank's sleeping daughter. I mean, on the one hand, I guess it makes sense that you might fixate on the only possible thing to DO during all this, but. Frank.
Cut to the fox. He is wounded but he finds the Mother Tree and the webs heal him. The white tiger, channeling Eve, gives him work to do. I do think I like that Eve's power is commanding the animals? It ties into the whole Garden of Eden thing. The officers at the prison notice that Eve is asleep without cocooning. Clint tucks this fact away and rushes to Lila.

"This could change everything," one officer says, and I'm not buying it? Most illnesses don't infect 100% of a population. We don't all get bird flu or swine flu, etc. The human experience is one of immunity. It just seems really early--and remember everyone has only known about this disease for maybe 8 hours!--to assume it's 100% all the women. There should be more uncertainty around this disease. Men afraid they'll catch it. Women certain they can't be infected. So forth. People race to the drugstores for Red Bull, but we never see anyone run to the church to pray.

Claudia droned on: “She must be some kind of wicked, if she’s the only one who can sleep like before.”

One of the prisoners has noticed Eve can sleep normal and... jumps to the strangest supernatural theory I've ever seen. Why would you assume she's supernatural? Why would you assume she's evil/wicked? Wouldn't you assume she's good, if you went that route? Why wouldn't you question if maybe she's not a woman? Like, everyone is assuming that "XX" people are sleeping. You see a woman who isn't sleeping. Maybe she's not "XX"?

Amusingly, all the women dwell on how preternaturally sexy Eve is. I think this is male gaze, but it makes all the women seem gay.

*lays head gently on desk, sobs*

“The problem is more complex than it first might appear—I see that. I do. There are feminists who like to believe that all the world’s problems go back to men. To the innate aggressiveness of men. They have a point, a woman never started a war—although, trust me, some were definitely about them—but there are some bad, bad chickadees out there. I can’t deny it.”

Here, now people can stop spouting that "women never started a war" bullshit. Eve is upbraiding Angel for killing five men as a hobby, but this feels a little hypocritical given that Eve killed two men this morning. (Plus, if Eve is responsible for the cocooning, literally millions of men have died today from that.) Something supernatural happens. I... I don't know, y'all, I just work here.

Only Jeanette saw what happened next. The two officers were still trying to untangle themselves from the overturned coffee wagon, and Angel was lost in a world of fury. Jeanette had time to think, I’m not just seeing bad temper; this is a full-blown psychotic episode. Then Evie’s mouth yawned open so widely that the entire bottom half of her face seemed to disappear. From her mouth came a flock—no, a flood—of moths.

I don't really even understand why Angel is upset and enraged over hearing her crimes--she was previously established as conscienceless. Do people who don't feel guilt scream "STOP IT!!!" when you talk about their crimes or are they like "lol, how'd you know?"

“I think it might be time to erase the whole man-woman equation. Just hit delete and start over. What do you think?”

YOU DELIBERATELY EXCLUDED TRANS PEOPLE FROM YOUR WORLD. Mother of god in heaven, you do not get to write a world with no trans people in it and then be like "let's rap about gender".

....I must here point out that there is a character called "Claudia the Dynamite Body-a". She is listed in the character cast that way. I assumed, because I am a naive fool, that she was a bodybuilder. No, apparently she is well-endowed in a Barbie sort of way. On the left is how I've been picturing Claudia the Dynamite Body-a. On the right is how I was supposed to picture her.

I bring up Claudia to you now because she has decided to walk around topless and this is Distracting to the others. Oh god. Claudia woke up Ree (another prisoner) from her cocoon and the guards had to kill Ree before she killed Claudia in a zombie rage. Thus ends Chapter 16.


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