Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers: The Things She's Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Days by Moonlight

Days by Moonlight follows Alfred Homer, a heartbroken botanist who's invited by family friend Professor Bruno Morgan on a Canadian road trip to discover the truth about reclusive poet John Skennen. The journey finds them among lycanthropes, fictional plants, witches and more, taking the pair into strange territory.

Like Neil Gaiman, André Alexis (Fifteen Dogs) uses mythology and folklore to probe deeper subjects, asking questions about the subjectivity of truth and happiness versus artistry, all in cool and beautiful prose. One can sense a Cheshire Cat grin in the writer's voice--how purely pleasurable it must have been to write this. There is pathos and tragedy here, especially in Skennen's story and Alfred's lost love. But black comedy and absurdity are there as well, and hang in uneasy balance with the sadder passages.

Then the fantastic tone shifts into a story of religion and divine experience. Up to a certain point Alexis nimbly plays with whether any of Alfred's encounters are objectively real, and the reason why is illuminated in the stunning final pages. But of course the best answer to "Is any of this true?" is another question, the perfect rebuke for those reaching for rationality: "Does it matter?" We tell falsehoods, stories, for many reasons and in so doing the stories become the truth. And in the tale of an at-first-average trip, Days by Moonlight finds a million other stories reconciling love and creation and divine gifts. --C.M. Crockford, freelance reviewer