After reading a few chapters, I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked a lot of it (the characters most of all) but something didn’t entirely work for me and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it began to slowly win me over.
Karla Hernandez loves her job. Finding a way to cure blindness caused by diabetes is the current goal of her life, and her work should get her her own lab to lead in a not too distant future. The only problem she can see with her life is how little sleep she gets. Her brain just won’t stop. Her niece Rosa, who, at eleven, hero-worships her, used her as the subject of her middle-school science fair project and believes she has found the cure for her aunt’s insomnia: Karla needs to find a girlfriend, since she seems to sleep a lot better when sharing her bed with someone. One of the fair judges, Remi, unexpectedly catches Karla’s attention, and the feeling is mutual. Remi would love nothing more than to help prove Rosa’s theory right. You’d think, with both parties agreeing, it would be simple enough, but Karla’s work gets in the way and Remi’s devotion to her autistic brother brings its own set of parameters to navigate.
I really like the way the main characters are written. I’m not sure I like them all the time but I like who they are and what the author did with them.
Karla, for one, is a lot more complex than she first appears to be. Yes, she’s driven and ambitious but her main motivation is to help people. When she meets Maricela, a floundering college student, she takes her under her wing, even though the young woman doesn’t work in the same lab. Her willingness to be her niece’s test subject says a lot about who she is too. When she meets Remi, Karla believes her job is her top priority and that there is no other way possible. One of the reasons she believes in a potential future with Remi is the other woman’s similar drive and busy life. What she doesn’t see yet is that her passion is overwhelming her to the point of being her whole life, with only tiny pockets of time and brain space for the people in her life, just enough to make her think she’s found the right balance. Ha! Think again, Karla.
Remi is a lot more difficult to read, in part because the story is told in first person from Karla’s point of view. The reader learns about Remi through Karla, and at the end of the story, they still have a lot to learn about each other. What we do know very early on is how important Neil, Remi’s brother, is in her life.
In their first meetings, Remi literally keeps taking Karla’s breath away. It makes for cute and funny scenes but it’s also an accurate reflection of how Remi makes Karla feel. I enjoyed every moment when they are together, even when they’re struggling. They fit from the start. It’s not instalove and not even exactly instalust, but there’s definite instacompatibility.
One thing Villeneuve does very well is convey the uncertainty of not only a new relationship but a relationship with such complexities to combine: Karla’s demanding and captivating job and Neil’s needs.
That’s another thing I loved, Remi’s relationship with her brother and the way he is portrayed. They communicate through movie quotes and Lego (I have a feeling he would love Beyond the Brick). If I learned one thing from this book, it’s that I should give the Lego movies a try. They’re clearly not “fluffy kids movies”, to quote Karla.
There are more secondary characters, from Karla’s best friend Valerie to Karla’s boss and family, but while they play significant roles in Karla’s life, they’re not as important to the story. In the beginning, Maricela sounded more like a high-schooler than a college student. As she opened up to Karla and Valerie, she started sounding a little more mature, more like a young adult and less like a fifteen-year-old.
Remi seems a lot more isolated and I’m not sure whether it’s a reflection of how much space Neil occupies in her life or because the story is told from Karla’s point of view and she hasn’t had time yet to meet Remi’s friends and colleagues.
I hadn’t read a book by Laina Villeneuve in years, and Cure for Insomnia reminded me why I used to like them. I’ll have to look up the ones I missed.