Review: The Dream Peddler
One cold winter morning in the early hours, a young boy leaves his home to follow the moon — but then disappears.
Not many hours later a peddler walks into town pulling his cart of wares and finds himself in the midst of a search for the boy and volunteers to help — until the boy’s body is found in the river and he instead finds himself in a grieving town.
The traveling salesman turns out not to be your average peddler: this one sells dreams, made to order, satisfaction guaranteed.
Robert Owens has traveled through small towns like this before, and after finding a room at a boarding house, sets up shop and waits for the curious, the grieving, and the naughty to stop by and try out his uncanny vials of dreams. Such as the teenage girl who wants to dream of her wedding, the little boy who wants to dream he’s the star player in a baseball game, or the befreft mother, Evie, of the dead boy who seeks respite for sleepless nights.
Told in a semi-omnicient, rotating PoV from Robert, to Evie, to various other townsfolk, we follow people as they seek out the dream peddler. The rotating PoV within chapters was a little disorienting at first (especially since I’m used to more strict PoV 3rd person in the majority of the novels I read), but it allows for a continuity of prose and commentary that lends itself to the book’s style. A style with a fairytale feel, poetic and lyrical, not unlike Patricia A. McKillip (EBR Archives), where the magic propels the story, but isn’t in-your-face.
However, despite Robert’s good intentions to help the townsfolk as they live out their dreams at night, not everyone is genuine and the dreams are often used for less than honorable reasons. Some people use them to see the future. Some use them to avoid sin in real life or to avoid personal truths. Others use them to forget. And there are consequences when people avoid the truth or use the dreams for the wrong reasons. These characters feel real in their hopes, desires, and pain, as they try to navigate what’s real and what they wish was real.
I wish I could talk more about the story here, but it would provide spoilers, and THE DREAM PEDDLER is worth reading for how it unfolds events and reveals the characters. This is the kind of book that would lend itself to a book club where readers can discuss the characters and their choices, about the consequences of their behavior, and the outcome of dealing with secret desires.
- Recommended Age: 13+
- Language: None that I remember
- Violence: A boy dies but not on screen
- Sex: Referenced several times