Copyright is held by the author.
A book review of Days by Moonlight by Andre Alexis (Coach House Books, Toronto 2019)
IN ANDRE ALEXIS’s most celebrated novel, the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue, Hermes and Apollo, over a drink at a Toronto bar, decide to conduct a happiness experiment by gifting a group of dogs human reasoning and language. Comedy, tragedy and dog poetry ensue.
With such an imaginative fabulist at the reins, I looked forward to reading Alexis’s latest novel Days by Moonlight, which takes the reader on an odyssey through the small towns of southwestern Ontario on the hunt for rare plants and a thought-to-be-dead famous poet. Since I’ve been on many road trips through the province and have visited some of the towns the book mentions (some mentioned in the book are real, some not), I wondered what magic could be spun out of the familiar landscape of small town Ontario.
Wow! What a trip! I will never view these towns quite the same way again! Alexis describes them in all their eccentric charm, beauty and occasional weirdness. He mixes the ordinary and the mystical with ease and you are swept along with his hero — the rather gloomy botanist Alfred Homer. When reading this book, the logical part of your brain will keep telling you “this doesn’t make sense,” but you should ignore that and just go with it.
Parts are funny; parts are sad and parts offer biting social satire as Alexis skewers the white-Anglo colonial foundations of most of these towns. He spins a yarn about a particular hamlet that holds an annual Indigenous Parade in which people dress up in moccasins and feathered headdresses and throw rotten vegetables at others dressed up as Canadian colonial founders (the French founders are pelted the hardest). The event is a great success, until the year actual indigenous folk started participating in the tomato throwing, which caused an absolute uproar. Then there’s the town Alfred and his poet-researching companion Professor Bruno stop at to tour the museum of “Canadian Sexuality.” Need I say more?
I could, but I won’t. Open up this book, and take the trip yourself.