A stranger comes to town, offering mysterious potions that will let the townspeople dream about whatever they want, in Fournier Watson's imaginative debut.
When 9-year-old Benjamin Dawson ventures outside to confront an enormous moon above his window, adventure and magic seem to be on offer. Then Benny goes missing, the dream peddler, Robert Owens, arrives, and everyone in town wants to buy his magic potions. Sixteen-year-old Toby Jenkins wants to dream about girls who won't reject him romantically. Benny's father, George, wants a dream that will help him locate his son. Christina Blackwell wants to dream of her future husband. While George and his wife, Evie, struggle to cope with the aftermath of their son's disappearance, the peddler quietly insinuates himself into the life of the town. The seasons change. Eight-year-old Alistair McBryde desires a nightmare that he'll secretly inflict on his bullying brother. Evie ignores her mother's warnings that the peddler is a fraud and approaches him with an unusual dream request. With the peddler present, the town's minister, Mr. Arnold, preaches against the sin of dream-buying. Gossip, lies, deceits, and misunderstandings entangle the peddler in a scandal, and Evie must try to resolve her feelings toward him in a lovely, bittersweet ending. The novel's opening chapters are slightly marred by an occasionally intrusive narrator and some cumbersome backstory. Overall, however, Fournier Watson's tale is gorgeous and carefully paced, with subtle tensions among the townspeople and lush descriptions of the natural world.
Themes of coming and going, holding on and letting go, permeate this highly engaging, captivating, and, yes, dream-infused story.