cover image Days by Moonlight

Days by Moonlight

André Alexis. Coach House, $17.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-55245-379-7

Alexis follows up his Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning Fifteen Dogs with this darkly funny exploration of mourning and Canadian identity, containing a touch of the surreal. Amateur botanist Alfie Homer is grieving the accidental death of his parents and a breakup from his girlfriend when family friend Professor Bruno invites him to be his driver and transcriber on a research trip. Professor Bruno is seeking information for scholarly work on poet John Skennen, who disappeared 20 years earlier and is presumed dead. They talk with Skennen’s relatives, high school classmates, and former lovers, hearing strange, complex stories of riddles, witches, and possible sightings of Skennen while Alfie catalogues increasingly bizarre plants. Their journey invokes biting satire as they visit small Ontario towns where black inhabitants communicate only through sign language, residents celebrate heritage by burning historically accurate homes, and an attempt to honor indigenous peoples in a parade flounders over white people’s attempts to be politically correct. After visiting the unsettling Museum of Canadian Sexuality, the professor and Alfie end up in a town with a mystical reputation and have strange experiences that spark fierce battles between the two of them about belief and the inexplicable. This imaginative travelogue will amuse readers even as it raises weightier issues. (Apr.)