Cover Image: Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants

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Member Reviews

Thanks NetGalley!
I enjoyed this novel, especially the part about the polar bear. I felt that that tied in well with how Amanda was feeling throughout the book. I think both being abandoned by their mothers helped Amanda connect to Molly (polar bear). Also, Larry just balanced everything out and enjoyed his role in the story. There were parts that were a bit difficult due to child abuse (includes sexual abuse) to many of which were children who were gay. It was heartbreaking to hear how the boys were treating in a place that was suppose to care for them. I have heard of the therapy technique that was used and its horrible and i felt deeply for the boys. It was an emotional story and I'm so glad that I received a copy because it was a wonderful.
Twenty years ago, a nine-year-old boy was swept away by powerful waves on a remote Oregon beach, his body lost to the sea. Only a stone memorial remains to mark his tragic death.

For most of her life, Amanda Dufresne had no idea she had an older brother named Dennis Owens, or that he had died. Adopted as a baby, she learned about him while looking into her late birth mother, and is curious to know more about this lost sibling. A solitary young woman, Amanda has always felt distanced from the world around her. Her brain works differently from others, leaving her feeling set apart. Her one true companion is the orphaned polar bear she cares for working at the zoo. By getting to know her birth family, she hopes to understand more about herself.

Amanda finds out she had a brother, Dennis but learned he passed away. She goes looking for information and with the help of a retired cop, Larry she starts stringing together of what actually happened at the orphanage where Dennis was living when he went missing. The orphanage was for disturbed boys and the treatments and care was much darker than anyone expected. Amanda and Larry dig deeper into the past, the two stumble upon decades of cruelty and hidden crimes—including a barbaric treatment still used today.

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This is is an author who tackles very tough subjects and makes us care about what she writes about. This is my fourth book of hers, and it broke my heart. as usual this book drew me in and immersed me in the characters world. I recommend you don’t miss this book.

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4 heartbreaking stars

Rene Denfield is an author who tackles very tough subjects and makes us care about what she writes about. This is my fourth book of hers, and it broke my heart.

The book opens with a scene of a young boy swept out to sea on the rugged Oregon coast. Twenty years later, the boy’s younger sister, Amanda, comes looking for clues about his life.

There’s not much left of the institution where Dennis was sent when he was four years old, and no one wants to talk about the sad place, either.

Larry is a widowed former police officer who lives in a cabin near the coast. Together with Amanda, they set out to figure out what could have caused Dennis to run into the ocean that night.

Alternating chapters show us what Dennis endured at the institution and the controversial techniques that the director used to “reset” these troubled boys.

Larry and Amanda encounter dangerous elements as they get closer to the truth.

While this one broke my heart, it ends with hopeful elements and answers. There are no easy solutions, but it is clear that this treatment does not work and should be outlawed.

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"a compelling and poignant story of sibling bonds, foster children, monsters masquerading as caretakers, terrifying secrets, and the power of love to right even the most egregious wrongs."

Not only compelling, but a terrifying weave of lies and deception interacting with grief and hope. I can't give this one enough stars to justify readers to attain this book. It is an eye opener and not easy to read. A stone memorial stands erect overlooking the sea. Dennis Owens, only nine years old, jumps into the powerful waves that rock the Oregon coast never to resurface again. His fate was better than his life in the Birchwood facility for unwanted and disturbed children. Dennis, as well as others suffered barbaric and cruel treatments.
Amanda Defresne travels to Eagle Cove, Oregon, to find out what her brother suffered after researching her adoption and his whereabouts. She meets Larry Palmer, a retired officer and widower, who helps her investigate the facility that is now closed, but stands abandoned and disintegrating in their town. With decades of cruelty and hidden crimes and barbaric treatments still used today, the town is not as quick to relinquish information, but tucked away like the disregard to the children that were locked away in "holding time".
A touching side of the story is Molly, an orphaned polar bear, that Amanda cares for at a zoo. Their story correlates to the real meaning of "sleeping giants" and an unforgettable converge that you will never forget. The characters are so well written, I felt that I knew each one. This one touches you and is not easy to swallow. I'm so thankful I read it, as my heart is breaking. A top contender this year!! The research and information by this author is astounding!!
Thank you NetGalley and Harper for this incredible ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Oh my goodness, Rene Denfeld is the queen of heart-wrenching books about terrible things that could happen to children. But the reason I keep going back to her is because so far, each book has had a beautiful and uplifting ending that gives us hope. This one was amazing - so well written. I loved the characters and the story was poignant and stuck with me.

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Many thanks to Negalley, Rene Denfeld and publishers for providing my review copy of Sleeping Giants.

There is something so quietly powerful about Rene Denfeld's writing. She certainly knows how to tell a story and after reading The Child Finder, I knew I would follow her wherever she went. All of the characters portrayed in Sleeping Giants were so profoundly beautiful and human - even the antagonist. The seaside setting and the description of the air and seas, made me feel like I was there. I am thrilled to have been an advanced reader for this, all though I will have major FOMO when it is officially released.

Definitely do yourself a favor and pick this and every other book by Rene Denfeld up. You won't regret it.

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Sleeping Giants by Rene Denfeld is a beautifully written story that quickly captures your heart. Following two different timelines, one set in the modern day tells the story of a young woman who was adopted and has just discovered she had an older brother who died. She goes to the town where he was as a home for disturbed boys and tries to piece together what happened to him. The other timeline is twenty years prior and follows the brother and his experience at the home. The characters are richly built out, and I cared deeply for them. The story deals with complex topics of the abuse that happened in the home, and I would suggest looking up trigger warnings. The story is gripping and kept me engaged as you slowly learn the truth of what happened to the brother and see how the young woman grows and builds new friendships through her journey. Sleeping Giants is a powerful and beautiful book that I will continue to think about.

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Sleeping Giants starts with a young boy, Dennis, running on a remote Oregon beach getting swept up by a rogue wave and carried out to sea. A man tries unsuccessfully to save him. Next we meet his half sister, Amanda, who has learned of her birth mother, and her brother, Dennis, and is trying to find out more about him, and herself.
Amanda thinks a bit differently than most people, leaves the corners on her sandwiches, and is a care taker for a polar bear in the Portland zoo. When she goes to the seaside town to learn more about her brother, she befriends a retired, widowed police officer named Larry, who helps her in her search about her brother, and what happened to him on that fateful day.
Time flashes back and forth in the story, and you learn about the home Dennis was sent to - Brightwood, a home for "troubled" boys . A new headmistress named Martha begins to treat the boy with "holding therapy" and many horrible secrets, and the truth are uncovered.
Author Denfeld has interesting characters, and weaves the story so well! You do learn more about the polar bear, too! Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced reader copy. Recommend!

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Captivating and harrowing story of a woman searching for the story behind her brother's childhood death. Amanda takes a road trip to a remote and wild part of the coast, hoping to learn more about the brother she never knew. Her path connects with a retired investigator who lives nearby, and together they take on the task of researching the small memorial headstone with her brother's name. Who placed the headstone there? What happened when her brother drowned - did he run away from the terrible institution where he had been placed, or was there something more nefarious happening with his death? This is an atmospheric read that has quick dialogue and a satisfying resolution, but it can be difficult to connect with all of the characters due to the plot happening so quickly. This book also has multiple detailed descriptions of abuse and trauma which could be harmful for some folks to read. Grateful to the publisher for the chance to read and review this title.

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Rene Denfeld has become a favorite author and automatic read for me. As per usual, she has written a compelling story with unique, sympathetic characters for whom one can't help but feel a mixture of empathy and moral support, cheering them on in their quest for answers and justice.

The plot is well-paced and I found it difficult to put the book down until I was done. The setting was also a huge selling point for me. I grew up in Oregon and the coast is one of my favorite places in the world. Denfeld captured the wild, stormy beauty of it perfectly. A small cameo of the Gorge, my own stomping grounds, made it that much more enjoyable.

I loved the overarching theme on the strength of sibling bonds, both through the storyline of Amanda searching for answers about Dennis, a brother she never knew yet with whom she felt a strong connection, and the side story of Molly.

This story is not for the faint of heart - I don't think any of Denfeld's novels are. There are scenes of horrific abuse, and part of the story showcases just how much the system is set up to fail the most vulnerable children in our society. I had never heard of 'holding time' before, and cannot fathom how anyone could actively participate in that under the guise of 'helping' children.

However, the ultimate message that healing is possible at any point in time, especially if sought through authentic, loving connections with others, was reassuring and allowed the novel to end on a positive note. Larry finding meaning in life again by helping Amanda, Amanda embarking on her own journey of independence in hopes of helping Molly, and Dennis only truly thriving when he was with Ralph.

Highly recommended for those who are willing to weather the storm.

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Amanda is on a journey to learn about the older brother she never met. Her brother is long gone but we get flashbacks to his life, and the important people who were in it. Travel on this journey with Amanda to find herself, and her brother.
I didn't enjoy this as much as Denfeld's other books but it was an enjoyable read, just kind of slow for me.

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Dennis Owen, a young foster child living at a home for disturbed boys was tragically washed out to sea on the shores of the Oregon coast. Twenty years have gone by with no answers until his sister arrives to learn more about the brother she didn’t know she had. With an intense mystery, a vivid Pacific Northwest setting, and themes of the power of family, SLEEPING GIANTS makes for a perfect winter read. This heartbreaking story highlights the bonds of siblings over space and time and leaves readers with a thin layer of hope.

-get drawn into a small-town cold case mystery with unique characters
-appreciate the Oregon Coast as a character in and of itself
-love when a story pulls you in right from the first page

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A difficult novel about an adopted young woman coming to terms with the fact that she had a brother who died as a child.

Amanda has always known she was adopted but has found out that she had a younger brother who was placed in an orphanage and died when he was swept out into the ocean. Working with a retired policeman, the two begin looking into what exactly happened to the boy and what was going on in that orphanage.

Secrets, cruelty, abuse all make for some chilling scenes, but Amanda's relentless drive to find out the truth makes it an engaging and fast paced novel.

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It seems like forever since "The Butterfly Girl" was published, but "Sleeping Giants" was worth the wait. As Amanda searches for her brother Dennis who disappeared year ago from a home for boys and was last seen headed into the sea nearby, she meets Larry, a retired police officer who offers to help her. The mystery unravels as the story moves from Oregon to Arizona and even to Alaska. Denfeld has a knack with writing mysteries that also lay bare to the atrocities visited on children by those that are entrusted with their care. Fortunately, the relationships that develop between Dennis and Ralph in the past and Amanda and Larry in the present serve as beacons of hope.

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I will read anything Rene Denfield writes. I fell in love with her books after reading The Enchanted and have followed her since, so I was excited to grab Sleeping Giants. Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sleeping Giants tells the story of Dennis who goes missing from an orphanage twenty years ago, and his sister who shows up in present day to investigate what happened to him and the other children at the orphanage.

I enjoy the way Denfield builds her characters, especially the relationships between Amanda and Larry while they were investigating what happened to Dennis, and Dennis and Ralph in the home. This book was harder to read at times with the abuse. The scenes with holding time were particularly intense. The author’s note at the end is worth reading and explains why the story is important.

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This was my first Rene Denfeld book but it won’t be my last! As someone who lives in Oregon I love that it took place on the Oregon coast. This story kept me intrigued and I didn’t feel that the ending was super predictable or unrealistic.

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Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced ecopy of Sleeping Giants by Rene Denfeld.

This book about the horrors of some treatment facilities, familial bonds, and found family was heartbreakingly wonderful. While there was some suspense/mystery, this was much more than the average thriller. The topic and characters pulled you in and had you feeling all the emotions along with them. I would warn readers that have personal experience with foster care or treatment facilities that this will be hard to read. Great story with multiple layers.

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Rene Denfeld is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me. You can tell she really puts a lot of time into her books, and I especially admire her writing style. SLEEPING GIANTS is another winner. Haunting and evocative in the best of ways, this compelling story of sibling bonds and foster children is a smart and engaging novel.
Amanda is an engaging and sympathetic character. As she learns more about her past, I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I also enjoyed her friendship with the polar bear.
Retired police detective Larry Palmer is also a great character who offers to help Amanda in her quest. What they discover is shocking and yet completely believable.

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One of the best books I've read all year. Rene Denfeld excels at creating intense and very real characters. A mystery kept the plot moving and the West Coast setting enhanced the plot immensely. I highly recommend this for fans of Heather Gudenkauf and Mary Kubica.

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Sleeping Giants
Rene Denfeld
March 26, 2024
Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
I am so glad someone recommended this author to me. I have devoured all of her books. Sleeping Giants is a masterpiece. Her new novel is a page turner! Haunting, frightening and moving!
I will recommend it to readers who enjoy mystery fiction. It was a thriller.
5 stars

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