“Astonishing . . . Explores the vast underground legacy of our own desires. This is the must-read book of the year.” —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder
A richly imagined debut novel about a traveling salesman and the small town he changes forever
If someone offered you a magic elixir that could conjure any dream you wanted . . . would you take it?
Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.
Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.
Gorgeously told through the eyes of Evie, Robert, and a broad cast of fully realized characters, The Dream Peddler is an imaginative, moving novel of overcoming loss and reckoning with the longings we keep secret.
Like a latter-day Ray Bradbury, Watson stakes out similar homespun fantastic territory in her debut, which takes place in a farming community early in the 20th century. Traveling salesman Robert Owens arrives just as young Benjamin Dawson is reported missing. As the townspeople begin a frantic search for the boy, Owens reveals that he sells dreams in the form of a magic elixir that gives you whatever dream you desire. Many townspeople decide to try the dream peddler's concoction, including Cora Jenkins, a flirtatious young woman; Alistair McBryde, a mischievous youth; and Evie Dawson, Benjamin's mother. After Benjamin is found dead, Owens soon becomes the talk of the town, and he and the grieving Evie go on to have a special friendship as he tries to alleviate the pain of her loss. But then, the dreams begin to cause complications among the town's citizens, and Evie watches in mounting horror as her neighbors turn on Owens. Watson populates her novel with a vibrant cast and does an excellent job of capturing the loneliness and repression of small-town life. This is a winning novel with broad appeal.