I first heard of André Alexis when Fifteen Dogs was published. I read it for Niagara Life and found it really weird but really good. I don't do "literary" books. You know the ones...the ones that are meandering and don't seem to have a point and usually have characters who are way out there and/or super messed up. I don't care if I "should" like them. I just don't. Usually. Alexis is an author who is lauded by critics and writes literary novels I, surprise, actually enjoy. I'm not saying I totally "get" them but I enjoy the ride. Days by Moonlight is Alexis' latest novel and it was a confusing but interesting and entertaining read.
Here's the synopsis:
Botanist Alfred Homer, ever hopeful and constantly surprised, is invited on a road trip by his parents' friend, Professor Morgan Bruno, who wants company as he tries to unearth the story of the mysterious poet John Skennen. But this is no ordinary road trip. Alfred and the Professor encounter towns where Black residents speak only in sign language and towns that hold Indigenous Parades; it is a land of house burnings, werewolves, and witches.Days by Moonlight is part of a series, a quincux, that Alexis is writing. (Check out this Globe and Mail article that explains more about the series and his Giller Prize win.) The Hidden Keys was also part of the quincux (and I also reviewed it for Niagara Life) and also really weird and really good. I haven't read Pastoral yet, which is the first book in the series, but it was mentioned as a novel in Days by Moonlight which was really neat.
Complete with Alfred's drawings of plants both real and implausible, Days by Moonlight is a Dantesque journey taken during the "hour of the wolf," that time of day when the sun is setting and the traveller can't tell the difference between dog and wolf. And it asks that perpetual question: how do we know the things we know are real, and what is real anyway?
As you can tell from the synopsis, there was a lot happening on Alfred and Morgan's road trip through southern-ish Ontario (I've noticed my idea of what's southern Ontario has changed quite a bit since I moved to Niagara). The pair start their trip in Toronto and meander from Whitchurch Stouffville to Nobleton to Feversham. Along the way they experience increasingly stranger events. The burning of the houses made me sad and confused and another town, as described in the synopsis, where Black residents speak in sign language had me outraged. The Indigenous Parades also infuriated me. The werewolves were intriguing. And all, in their own way, commented on our world today.
It might not seem like it, but the book was amusing, in its own dark way. The circumstances Alfred and Morgan find themselves in are so bizarre that the reader cannot help but laugh, at least a little.
Alfred was a really interesting character and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. He was heartbroken after the accidental death of his parents and the breakup with his long-time girlfriend. I think before the road trip he was slowly starting to realize he needed to find a way to live with his grief and move past the heavy fog he was under. He was definitely distracted on the road trip which may have been the professor's ultimate goal.
Days by Moonlight isn't going to be for everyone. But I encourage you to read André Alexis' work and explore the interesting and whimsical worlds he has created.
*A copy of this novel was provided by Publishers Group Canada and Coach House Books in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*