Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

The basics

Title: Wanderers


Series: Wanderers #1

- Wanderers (2019)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world's last hope.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Read a full summary of Wanderers by Chuck Wendig below. If you can’t remember what happened in Wanderers and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

What happened in Wanderers?

  • A comet is spotted heading past Earth.
  • Shana’s sister, Nessie, starts walking. Shana can’t fiure out what’s wrong so she goes to get their dad. He’s unable to help.
  • When Charlie, their dad, tries to stop Nessie, she freaks out and starts bleeding.
  • Shana spots her teacher walking too.
  • Benji Ray, a doctor who used to work for the CDC until he stirred some crap up at Longacre, returns from a trip to Hawaii and is greeted by Sadie, who tells him about a predictive AI called Black Swan. It apparently chose him for some reason.
  • A cop tries to stop Shana’s teacher from walking and the guy ends up exploding.
  • Benji reunites with his old team, including Robbie Taylor. They’re not all fans of Benji because he messed up with Longacre back in the day. The group talks about what to do with the walkers.
  • Jerry Garlin is someone we’re introduced to during an interlude. He is swarmed by bats, gets ill, and starts acting erratically before dying in the Everglades.
  • Soon there are over 200 walkers.
  • Benji and his team try to divert the walkers but they just climb over the trailers and keep going in the same direction.
  • Shana makes friends with Mia, whose brother is a walker, and Arav, an older guy from the CDC.
  • We meet Paster Matthew, who is complimented by a racist, drug dealing white supremicist called Ozark Stover, and so he starts preaching nonsense about the walkers in order to ignite Stover’s followers.
  • We meet Pete Corley, an old rockstar who wants to make a comeback. He’s having an affair with a man called Landry. He doesn’t think his family knows he’s gay.
  • Pete gets into an argument with his band’s lead singer and storms off. His plan is to meet up with the walkers and get some press that way.
  • Cassie investigates Jerry Garlin’s death and realises that there’s about to be an outbreak.
  • Benji gets called into a meeting with Sadie about Black Swan. He’s told that Black Swan was able to speak to itself from the future and it warned itself about the infection. Benji learns about the fungus that is infecting people from Garlin’s infection.
  • Benji and Sadie get together. He later learns that she has been keeping things from him and Arav but he forgives her.
  • Pete arrives with the walkers just as the army are sent in to deal with them. He helps motivate the crowd and is basically a huge morale boost.
  • Matthew is captured by Ozark for trying to back out of their deal after his wife attempts to kill herself. He’s put in an underground bunker and his son is taking in by this white supremicist group.
  • Shanna and Arav get together after she turns eighteen.
  • Marcy was suffering from brain damage before this all happened, but when the walkers pass through she’s able to see a glow coming from them and the fuzziness in her head disappears. She thinks she’s able to communicate with them, and this is clear when she wishes Shanna a happy birthday.
  • Stover’s group attack the walkers. They shoot at them from a distance, killing almost a hundred of them. Marcy saves the die and takes the gunmen out. She’s captured though.
  • Matthew escapes. He stabs Stover in the neck while doing so. He joins up with his wife, who’s not dead.
  • Shana falls pregnant, and when she tells Arav he reveals that he’s infected with the virus and has to leave.
  • The walkers make it to California, and by this point the world has pretty much fallen to the virus. The president is shot and killed.
  • The shepherds become walkers.
  • Benji becomes infected. He has a theory about an anti-fungal drug preventing the symptoms from developing for a while, so he heads to Vegas to grab some more from the CDC centre there. He finds some drugs, but then gets mugged by some of Stover’s men. He flees back to California with a few drugs in his pocket.
  • Sadie is also infected.
  • We get into the walkers’ heads. They’re currently living in a simulated version of Oulay, Colorado, which is where the flock is heading in real life. Shanna gets to speak to her sister, Nessie again. Their mother is also there, and is apparently one of The Twelve – test subjects for Black Swan.
  • Shanna doesn’t trust Black Swan at all, and starts trying to investigate it. She wants to know what’s going to happen to her baby while she’s in this sleepwalking mode.
  • Matthew and Autumn are trying to find Bo. Matthew infiltrates Stover’s men’s camp and there he meets Marcy. She tells him to go to Colorado to warn the flock, as Stover’s men are heading there now.
  • Pete heads to see his family while Landry heads to Ouray.
  • The flock arrives at Ouray and they start to disperse. They go into sleep mode, ready to awaken once it’s all safer. A man called Dove is still living there with some people, and they’re pretty chill about the whole thing.
  • Matthew arrives and warns them about Stover’s men. Benji and Dove block one of the roads, but they don’t get to the other sides of town fast enough and Stover’s men start shooting.
  • A bunch of walkers are killed while they’re sleeping. Matthew goes to find Bo, who tries to shoot him. Arav saves the day by letting himself explode and having Black Swan infect the bad guys.
  • Black Swan lets Shanna and Arav see each other again before he dies and it’s quite sweet. Shanna goes through the black door and into Black Swan.
  • Pete drives over Stover as he’s trying to run away, then Matthew shoots him to end it.
  • Five years later, Shanna is the last of the walkers to wake up. She learns that a lot of the others, including Sadie and Landry, are dead. Benji, Matthew, Dove, and Marcy are still alive. Benji’s plan with the anti-fungal meds worked, and Sadie and Arav gave up their allowance for him.
  • The ex-walkers have started their own church. Black Swan tells Shanna that they’re going to worship her and her baby. Shanna currently hates Black Swan because it was wrong about so many things, it lied about Future!Black Swan experiencing climate change, and she hates that people are now worshipping her. She refuses to go to the church.
  • It turns out that Black Swan engineered the virus outbreak to save the planet.
  • Small pockets of humans have actually survived the virus and it’s not as cataclysmic as they thought it would be. So that’s hopeful.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!


  • Victoria Lee says:

    Thank you for posting this! I did not find The Wanderers compelling enough to keep reading, so I gave up at page 283, but I wondered what happened. Your recap answered that question. Thank you, and keep up your good work!

  • Jen says:

    Appreciate the synopsis. I got a quarter through the book and could not go on with the juvenile writing and thinly veiled political lecturing. Yawn.

Leave a reply