Theodora is the daughter of a single mother who is barely managing to keep herself—never mind her child—in food and clothing. Theo dreams of having a real family, of not being a pariah at each of the subsequent schools she is sent to as her mother moves from place to place, bad job to bad job, all within Vancouver. On the ferry to Victoria, when Theo’s mother is taking her to her Aunt’s home—giving Theo away so she can be with her new boyfriend—Theo falls into a dream of being with a family: but the dream is real. She begins to fade in her new life, though, and awakes, still on the ferry. Arriving in Victoria at her aunt’s, she finds that the life she knew, the family she was part of, do exist, but are not as ideal as in her waking dream. It is not until she meets the ghost of the author in whose house the family lives that she begins to understand what had happened to her. Her new knowledge gives her the strength to stop only dreaming, and to work to make her own, real-life situation more endurable.
Despite others’ glowing reviews of this text, and an almost universal lauding of Pearson’s plot and technique, Awake and Dreaming is not—in my opinion—one of Pearson’s best. It does, however, present a unique premise and interesting relationship between the text and the real world.