Magic or psychology? One question that emerges from Martine Fournier Watson’s debut novel. Community or exclusion? Another contrast to ponder as the journey of The Dream Peddler unfolds. Ultimately, you’re left to wonder what the message – who the protagonist – really is. This story deserves close attention to its details, the layers of reality making up a quiet 20th-century American countrytown. The book’s rich, stirring prose aren’t to be overlooked either.
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Robert Owens could almost be seen as a male counterpart to Chocolat‘s Vianne Rocke. He suddenly appears lugging his bottled dreams and disturbs the tranquility of his temporary new home by allowing his customers to live our their greatest desires in their sleep. He being an outsider also gives us the chance to compare his type of isolation to that of the town’s denizens.
Complexity of Community
The Dream Peddler is actually told through the eyes of several characters, so we’re given a closer look at what’s hidden under the venear of this tight-knit community. A key theme that bubbles up is necessity, a factor driving people’s actions when all they can see of their potential and future are the boundaries set by their town. Other factors, like religion and family, come into play too.
The Problem with Secret Desires
So when Robert actually finds himself with plenty of customers, the cracks of the community become even more apparent, at least, to us. But the more vital issue is this: on the one hand, people can fulfill their desires in the safety of their dreams, whether it’s to walk with elephants or find love. On the other hand, these desires become even more precious as the happiness the dreams provide begins to undermine reality and all its glum necessities, restrictions, and injustices.
Representation of Loss
The ultimate core of the plot, however, is loss. Just as Robert walks into town, a little boy goes missing. Between the two shocks to the community, everyone in The Dream Peddler experiences loss in one way or another. And, while they seek resolution, we get to explore how different people confront the ups and downs of their lives.
If you like well-written historical fiction with a unique twist, this is a must-read. Its true magic is in wrapping you in a soft blanket that is actually filled with intrigue, emotion, and socio-psychological issues.
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