I must admit that I was a little misled by the whimsical cover art and title of Here Comes the Dreamer (2015, Inanna Publications). I thought this was going to be a lighthearted novella by Carole Giangrande, but male protagonist Alastair Luce is certainly no Walter Mitty type of dreamer. This book is the melancholy tale of artist/dreamer Alastair who had his dreams and personality altered by shock therapy as well as a fatal accident that was not really his fault, the fallout from which engulfs his family and neighbours in its wake, dealing with the trauma of the shock therapy, the accident and a wrongful death lawsuit.
Alastair, a Canadian is married to Nora, an American (the author herself is American-born but lives in Canada) and living in Linden, a small New York city suburb. Alastair is an introvert who likes to paint (pictures, and for a living, houses), drinks a little too much but loves his daughter Grace, who is verbally and physically abused by her mother, which scars her for life.
Tragically, Alastair is involved in a motor vehicle accident while giving a teen-aged neighbour (Claire, who is infatuated with Alastair) a ride home. The accident causes the death of Grace’s childhood friend, further traumatizing her. The book then goes on to follow the lives of Alastair, Grace and Claire as they grow up, grow apart and then attempt reconciliation and acceptance as older adults.
While Ms. Giangrande has devised a great story that spans differing characters and places, I feel that this novella should have been a novel. While Alastair’s and Claire’s characters are appealing enough, it is Grace that I had the hardest time liking. Perhaps that is the author’s intent, and there are occasional glimpses of Grace’s good nature, so much so that I hoped her character would have been developed more comprehensively. Even Nora (although unfaithful to her husband) was lacking in full character development, I thought.
Personal perceptions aside, this was a book I liked and while it is not the most uplifting read, it is very sobering and well-grounded in reality. It reminded me a little of Let Us be True with its family secrets and burdens of guilt carried over the years. Here Comes the Dreamer requires careful reading and some imagination and reflection to fill in the character gaps, but is well worth the time to read its 127 treasured pages.
Born and raised in the New York City area, Carole Giangrande now resides in Toronto. Her first novella, A Gardener on the Moon, was co-winner of the 2010 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest. Her second novella, Midsummer, was published by Inanna Publications in 2014. She’s the author of two novels, An Ordinary Star (2004) and A Forest Burning (2000) and a short story collection, Missing Persons (1994). Her website is: http://www.carolegiangrande.com.