Main character Max's mother disappears, leaving him, his father, and younger sister under a lot of stress. His mother's own mother, feeling some strain over her missing daughter, herself, gets the children out of the house and away from the crisis there by taking them to a cabin she owns where missing mom had spent part of her summers when she was a child. The cabin is in an area that had once been a vacation spot for families, built up around a lake. But Grandma's cabin is the only one occupied now, because a developer has purchased all the others in order to develop a more upscale vacation mecca. In fact, Grandma has sold, too, and she and her missing daughter had planned a trip to the cabin to pack it up and move things out. Now she's there with the grandkids, doing the job by herself, because, remember, her daughter, Max's mom is missing.
The cabin doesn't have electricity, so there's no TV and no kind of service for devices. (They do have a power source for a refrigerator, running water, and some sort of phone, because let's be realistic and safe, okay?) But the point is, without electric lights, TV, iPads, etc., what does the family do when it gets dark? They go to bed, as people did centuries ago when it got dark and they didn't have light to do things.
Going to sleep early leads Max to wake up in the middle of the night. When he goes back to bed for his "second sleep," he dreams about the lake near the cabin where there is an assortment of other children who are also staying in cabins near the lake. Except there are no children in the area, because all the other cabins near the lake are empty, having been sold to that developer who is getting to tear them down.
At least, there are no children anywhere nearby now.
I am not a fan of dream stories, but this was good. I'm finicky about fantasy, too, but this was a contemporary fantasy with no dragons or fairies, which I find much more palatable. Mystery is more to my liking and that is here, though, arguably, it may be a weaker element of the book.
On top of everything else, Second Sleep is elegantly written. I'd give you a little example, but there was a waiting list with the ebook service I use, and I had to return it before I could write this post. It's a new book published just three months ago, and it's good, so it's understandable that it should have found readers.
Another thought:This could be a neat vacation book, too.
It turns out I've read one of Stanley's earlier novels, Bella at Midnight, which looks as if it may have been a Cybils title one of the years when I was a judge.