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Days by Moonlight

by André Alexis

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5512347,162 (3.63)15
Almost a year to the date of his parents' death, botanist Alfred Homer, ever hopeful and constantly surprised, is invited on a road trip by his parents' friend Professor Morgan Bruno. Professor Bruno wants company as he tries to unearth the story of the mysterious and perhaps dead poet John Skennen. But Days by Moonlight is also a journey through an underworld that looks like southern Ontario, a 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, a time when the world and the imagination won't stay in their own lanes. Alfred and the Professor encounter towns where Black residents speak only in sign language during the day and towns that hold Indigenous Parades; it is a land of house burnings, werewolves, witches, and plants with unusual properties. The novel is a darkly comic portrait of two beings: Alfred Homer and the Southern Ontario he loves. And it asks that perpetual question: how do we know the things we know are real and what is real anyway?… (more)

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» See also 15 mentions

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I listened to this book which was read by the author himself. He didn't do a bad job but he wasn't the best narrator I've ever heard. I really liked Alexis' book Fifteen Dogs so I was looking forward to this book but it didn't grab me like Fifteen Dogs did. Maybe magical realism (which is not my favourite genre anyway) doesn't come across as well on audio as on a printed page.

Alfie Homer is a botanist who recently broke up with his long time girlfriend. His parents died in a car crash a year ago so when his parents' friend Dr. Morgan Bruno asks him to drive him on a road trip around southern Ontario Alfie thinks it's the distraction he needs. Dr. Bruno is on the trail of a mysterious poet, John Skennen, who disappeared over 20 years ago. While they follow the trail Skennen laid down long ago through numerous small towns they encounter quirky festivals and museums such as the house raising and burning festival in Nobleton. Each year a house is built and a poor family is allowed to move in but the following year that house is set on fire; if the family that lives in it can put the fire out before it consumes the house they get to live in it for another year. In each town Dr. Bruno interviews people who knew Skennen; some people think he is dead but others insist he is alive and one man even says he sees him regularly. Eventually they end up in a town called Feversham where there are more religious leaders living than in the Vatican City. Alfie has a mystical experience there and emerges changed.

This book won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in 2019. Obviously other people liked it more than I did. ( )
  gypsysmom | Apr 25, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
DNF - apparently this book is not for me (I found it slightly boring) but I will attempt to pick it back up at a later date.

I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Lauranthalas | Oct 29, 2019 |
Alfred Homer has been asked to accompany a family friend to search southern Ontario for a poet who has not been heard of for some time. They pass through towns with some bizarre customs. The result is a ribald, weird, darkly funny story of their travels. It's to be expected that an Ontarian odyssey featuring someone named Homer will form a highly imaginative work. Not only is Homer quirky but the people they meet are at the top end of the offbeat register.

"Days by Moonlight is not a work of realism. It's not a work that uses the imagination to show the real, but one that uses the real to show the imagination." -- André Alexis ( )
  VivienneR | Sep 20, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting book that defies expectations. Ostensibly the story of a road trip across Southern Ontario in path of a poet; but also so many other things. It’s frequently hilarious and ridiculous (in a good way), but also wise and touching and careful. It’s not always believable but not exactly magical realism either. It’s more about imagination and wonder, and it’s maybe at its best when it was wandering from the path of realism. A puzzling book in some ways but always an intriguing one. This is another piece of Andre Alexis’ quincunx that stands alone and also rises higher as a piece of the larger work. If you’ve liked any of Alexis’ other work this is certainly recommended. ( )
  vegetrendian | Apr 4, 2019 |
When the main character’s name is Homer you know there is going to be an odyssey. In "Days by Moonlight" by André Alexis, Alfred Homer’s odyssey is a short one, just a week-long driving tour of Ontario as he shepherds Professor Morgan Bruno from Toronto to Feversham and points in-between. Bruno is a friend of his parents who died a year earlier in an accident. Bruno thinks Homer might benefit from a short getaway, especially since he was recently dumped by the love of his life. Homer thinks he might get some time for sketching plants and enjoying his love of botany. Bruno hopes to track down information on the mysterious poet John Skennen.

Their travels take them to communities with festivals and customs that satirize attitudes toward poverty and the desire to blame the poor for their own poverty, the complex mix of guilt and resentment Canadians feel toward the indigenous people over holding land taken from them, and the long-term effects of racism and the silencing of Black voices. The satire is both broad and sharp. Feversham, their ultimate destination is a village that functions as a gathering place of spiritual power and transformation. Along the way, Homer finds many of the plants he hoped to see and his sketches are included in the book. Bit of John Skennen’s poetry are also part of the story, fitting well into the story.

I liked "Days by Moonlight" a lot. It’s the fourth in a series of five books that are interwoven and we meet the man who inspired “Pastoral,” the first in the series. It makes me want to read the rest. I loved the social satire, even though some might find it a bit obvious, but Gulliver’s Travels and The Odyssey were not subtle and they remain part of the canon of cultural literacy. The last section of the book, the mystical experience in Feversham, seems a bit aimless or incomplete. It could be, though, that it leads into the final book in the series.

"Days by Moonlight" will be released April 2nd. I received an ARC from the publisher.

Days by Moonlight at Coach House Books
André Alexis at The Canadian Encyclopedia

★★★★
https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2019/03/26/9781552453797/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Mar 26, 2019 |
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