Sunday, September 19, 2021

Where Desert Spirits Crowd the Night, by Charles de Lint

Triskell Press, ISBN 9780920623466, January 2015 (original publication in Worlds of Fantasy and Horror #2, Fall 1994)

Sophie Etoile, is an artist and a dreamer whose dreams take her into the the otherworlds--or one particular otherworld, Mabon, where among other charms is found the bookstore run by Mr. Truepenny, and where she meets her good friend, Jeck Crow. Or at least, that's where her dreams usually take her.

One night, she hears flute music, and steps out the back door of the bookstore, expecting to find herself in the alley behind the store. Instead, she's in the desert of the American southwest--and the bookstore, and the door back into it, are gone.

What, or rather who, she meets here are spirits of the southwestern desert, except for Nokomis, also called Grandmother, a spirit of the Kickaha tribe that lives much further east, in the area of the city of Newford, where Sophie lives. Nokomis tells her she can't get out of this dreamworld until she finds the reason that she's here, and than only Coyote or Kokopelli, another spirit who plays the medicine flute, can help her.

She goes walking through the desert, and meets Coyote, and when he can't help directly, asks him to help her find Kokopelli. This leads to walking through the desert with Coyote, who can be charming and fun, but also very frustrating. Sophie just wants out of this dreamplace, and when she wakes up in her own bed in the morning, she's relieved.

The following night, she's back in the desert.

Meanwhile, in the waking world, she's had a show, and met Max, a gay man grieving his recent deceased partner. They become friends, and she learns about his late partner, Peter, and about Max's own art, in the form of sculpture. She comes to suspect that one of the partners is not ready to let the other go, and she's trapped in a dreamworld meant for Max.

Or maybe she's not.

This is a gentle, thoughtful novella, about recognizing and embracing your own truth.


I bought this book.

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