Harper: The Snakes by Sadie Jones

The Dream Peddler

With The Dream Peddler, Martine Fournier Watson delivers a quietly magical tale of a town reeling from tragedy. In the middle of a frantic search for a missing child, a mysterious traveling salesman, Robert Owens, arrives in town. After Benjamin Dawson is found frozen under the ice in the bay, Owens reveals that, for a small fee, he can mix up a potion that will give you whatever dream you want. Townspeople start seeking him out, looking for distraction, for hope, and--as in the case of Ben's mother--a comfort that can't be found anywhere else. But if the peddler's dreams inspire comfort and hope, they also give rise to darker emotions, and it's not long before the community begins to unravel.

As inspiration for her debut novel, Watson cites Emily Starr, heroine of a lesser-known and subtly darker series by Anne of Green Gables author L.M. Montgomery. Montgomery wrote of a moment in which her heroine, overcome with grief and shame, destroys a manuscript titled "The Dream Peddler." Watson has now breathed life into that obscure literary ghost, creating a compelling story focused on the concepts of imagination, identity and accountability. Her characters are complex and well rounded, and her setting--an early 20th-century farming town--is an evocative mix of idyllic and repressed. With some lovely prose, intense imagery and deft handling of magical realism, The Dream Peddler is a strong debut from an impressive new artist. --Judie Evans, librarian