Here Comes the Dreamer


a novella by Carole Giangrande

Print: 978-1-77133-250-7
ePUB: 978-177133-249-1
PDF: 978-177133-252-1
136 Pages
August 25, 2015

SKU: N/A Categories: , , Tag:

Finalist, 2016 International Book Awards
Fiction – General

Alastair Luce is a dreamer, one of three who tell this tale. A Canadian expat living in a 1950s New York City suburb, he’s an artist, a quiet man who paints houses for a living, fears atomic holocaust, drinks too much and worries about his suffering child, Grace. His wife Nora is a passionate American who misses the excitement of wartime life and finds an outletand a loverduring the Red scare. Just before the accident that will drive so many future events, Alastair offers a ride to their teenage neighbour, Claire, who as a witness to tragedy and a wry observer of suburban mores, continues the story. Later in Toronto, Alastair’s exiled daughter Grace picks up the narrative, giving voice to her fury, an artist who works to “burn” the city down with brilliant colour. All three are bound together by their history, as a crisis draws their lives to a climax. It’s then that Grace ventures homeward for the first time, into a startlng vision of the unknown.

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). She’s worked as a broadcast journalist for CBC Radio, and her fiction, articles and reviews have appeared in literary journals and in Canada’s major newspapers. She comments as The Thoughtful Blogger (a space for interesting books and intermittent reflection), available through her website at http://www.carolegiangrande.com.

From Chapter 1:

Trouble came to Alastair Luce like a nasty slap of a wave at high tide, one wave after another. He’d been happy at times, but happiness was a breaker and it crashed and broke on the hard rock of the unexpected.  Sorrow was no different. He wondered if it had been his fate to live by water so that he would cling to nothing at all.

Yet he didn’t love the sea and its moodiness.  He’d worked as a house painter, and he’d brought to this meticulous task his care for all that was solid and enduring.  From high on his ladder, he’d view the street where he and Nora lived once, and he’d imagine its rooftops and turrets, newel posts and cornices painted in the brilliance of his inner seeing, of his vivid dreams at night.  It never troubled him that he’d had to paint in the modest hues that his customers preferred.  It made no difference. Colour smouldered inside his fingers and he could feel the force of it, electric under the stillness of everything he touched. A patient man, he knew that this extraordinary power would bide its time as a shoot did in a humble bulb, waiting for sunlight to prod it into bloom. On his canvases at home, he’d try to paint the ineffable light that hovered under the surface of his life.  He’d drink, but only when his suffering became too great, his sorrow that he couldn’t capture much of anything.

Which was why trouble came, he told himself years later.

Yet his hope was as tough as a weed in rock, as mindless as a fist in a bully’s face.  He’d come to feel that hope was part of the packaging of skin and muscle, nerve and bone, a thing you strengthened as you bore the weight of living.  This was why he’d shown up for Lyle Miller’s funeral. He’d hoped to see his own daughter, longing to assure her that nothing lasts, including grief.

“You’re my dad, not him,” said Grace when he called.  She didn’t ask about Nora.

“If you come, we’ll have a chance to talk,” said Alastair.

“I’ll come,” she answered.

Alastair forgave her, that she lived outside the constraints of time.  Her I’ll come was about as punctual as a tiny stream finding its way to the sea.  He could peer through Grace and see cities rising along the banks of her mind, long-hidden streets where she’d wandered since childhood. He hoped she’d forgiven him the years when they might have been closer to each other. Seventy-eight years old he was, and time was no longer his friend.  Neither was the man who’d died.

Gracie, how I wish you’d come, but he understood.  How many miles was Toronto from here?  Five hundred or so?  Grace couldn’t drive, wouldn’t fly.

Had she come, she’d be seated next to Nora in the front row, but he was imagining his own death, as if he and Nora and Grace were still a family, and they were mourning him.  It had been a while since he’d seen his former wife, ill herself with a bad heart, and he noticed that Nora’s warm-ember hair had become a snowdrift.  How thin she was, her gentle plumpness gone, as if in the anguish of Lyle’s dying, each passing day had carved off some of the meat of her life, trimming it away from the solid bone of her marriage.  Years ago, he’d suffered these same wounds when she left him.

Thirteen years he’d spent with Nora.

Lyle Miller leaves his wife of forty years, said the obit.   His children, Grace and John.  Alastair had pulled the single page from the paper, bunched it up and thrown it in the garbage. With it went a residue of bitterness, and in its place, he felt grief and a stirring of compassion.  He couldn’t watch sorrow crush Nora as it had done with him.  How grateful he was for a heart that spoke before his lips could mutter serves you right. 

Nora, I know how you feel, I know.

Behind Nora sat Claire Bernard, married to Lyle’s nephew, a lawyer who kept toying with his cell phone as if he meant to use it in church.  Time pitched Alastair backwards like salt tossed for good luck, but it was bitter salt from the ebb tide of his marriage when he’d fallen into young Claire’s life.  He watched her greet John Miller who could have been Lyle as a young man with his unruly wheat-sheaf of hair and narrow face, his eyes the soft and faded blue of an old, comfortable shirt.  John’s gaze was more wary, less guileless than his dad’s.  Long ago, when Alastair was still married to Nora, he’d let his hand rest on her stomach, knowing she was pregnant with John. Only it wasn’t his child.

Alastair had found a measure of peace since then.

And yet.

Forgiveness takes your whole life.  After the service he went up to Nora.

“My condolences,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied.

“I hope you’ll get some rest,” he told her.

Nora smoothed a stray hair back from her forehead.  “I saw you looking for Grace,” she said.  Her tone had a laser precision that didn’t invite rebuttal.  Nora, is it anything to you? How it hurt him, that years after their marriage ended, she’d observe him with such telling insight, letting him know how astute she was with her eyes, if not her heart.

She’s upset, Alastair thought.  Not herself.

She introduced her son who shook his hand, and he recalled Lyle’s first son Todd, his lost boy.  Todd would have grown up to look like John, he thought.  The young man seemed bereft, yet he could feel the quickness of his eyes as if they were Todd’s eyes playing with the world.  He saw in them a hint of the dead boy’s prescience, the same edge of contempt that troubled him once in a child so young.  It haunted him still, that Todd might have glimpsed how his life would end, how an inattentive man would kill him. All your life you’ll carry the weight of what you did, the judge said.

He’d wanted so much for Lyle to have another son.

“I didn’t catch your name,” said John.

“Al Luce.”

John turned his back to him, took Nora’s elbow, and walked with her to the waiting limousine.

1 review for Here Comes the Dreamer

  1. inannaadmin

    Review: New and notable work from Charles Demers, Teri Vlassopoulos and Carole Giangrande
    reviewed by Jade Colbert
    The Globe and Mail – November 13, 2015

    What’s most compelling about this novella is how it perfectly captures that heady brew of disquiet desolation and unspent passion that makes up 1950s suburban malaise. Set in the New York suburb of Linden, N.J., (and later, contemporary Toronto), at its heart is Al Luce, the dreamer in the title. Really he’s just an artist, but as a (Canadian) foreigner cold to American patriotism, within McCarthyism’s quiet frenzy Al’s considered a threat. He’s also tragically in love with a wife who could not be more unlike him; the story gets going when their domestic issues boil over into a terrible accident. Of the three focal characters – Al, his daughter, Grace, and Grace’s slightly older somewhat-friend, Claire – Claire’s perspective is the most fascinating. She’s perceptive beyond her years, but like a lot of teenagers both naive and self-involved about her role in the drama. A book that feels much fuller than its page count.


    Here Comes the Dreamer by Carole Giangrande
    reviewed by The Miramichi Reader – December 21, 2015

    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.

    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.


    Here Comes the Dreamer is a moving account of how a tragic accident changes, and haunts, the intertwined lives of a painter, his gifted and troubled daughter, and the young woman who befriends them. It astutely probes the moods and mores of suburban America in the ’50s and ’60s, and later, of Toronto. Combining rich lyrical language, inspired narration, and sensitive psychological insight, this is fiction of the most darkly illuminating, deeply touching kind.”

    —Allan Briesmaster, author of Against the Flight of Spring and Confluences

    “Giangrande’s writing is warm and intelligent, honest and kind. Here Comes the Dreamer is filled with the richness of character and intersecting lives.”

    —Irene Guilford, author of The Embrace

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