Set in 1997 Los Angeles, Lying Awake tells the story of Carmelite nun Sister John of the Cross, who for the past three years has been experiencing ecstatic visions of God--accompanied by intense headaches. She is diagnosed with a small brain tumor in her temporal lobe, easily operable, that is causing her to have localized epilepsy that is most likely the cause of her visions. Afraid that her faith has all been an illusion, Sister John undergoes intense soul-searching as she decides what to do. Through a series of flashbacks, we see the events that brought Sister John to the monastery: an absentee drunk mother, unhappiness and loneliness in life, finding peace in leaving the world behind, and experiencing a dry period in which she does not experience God. With the help of other characters in the book, she realizes that her attitude toward her visions had been one of self-centeredness rather than true, humble pursuit of God. After undergoing the surgery, the visions do stop--but she reveals the depth of her faith by continuing to seek and pursue God's will anyway.