I was entranced while reading Suzy McKee Charnas’s Dorothea Dreams, a book first published in 1987 that Aqueduct Press has reissued. From the very beginning, I was caught up not just in the life, but in the point of view, of Dorothea, the artist of the title who is having odd dreams.
In many ways, it is a simple story, more about the characters that inhabit the book than the plot. The friendship (eventually with benefits) between Dorothea and Ricky, who was drawn to Dorothea’s retreat in Taos by her fantastical dreams, strikes me as the kind of relationship any of us would cherish.
Ricky is dying of lung cancer and Dorothea is old enough to have grown children. That the story is about people “older than average” is enough to recommend it to me these days, but the real joy is that these characters are both the sum of interesting lives and yet still have more things to discover.
Another thing I really like about this book is that there are no bad guys, except for some people who only appear in what others say about them. While the action in the story is set in place by people who set out to steal from the poor, the story isn’t about them. The closest thing to “villain” in this story is Roberto, a foolish young man who has made a lot of bad choices but has a legitimate grievance. A reader might learn to hate Roberto, but would have to be hard-hearted to also hate his sister Blanca, an angry and brave young woman with life-threatening asthma.
Roberto puts a lot of people in harm’s way as he swings a gun around at Dorothea’s home in Taos, but the crisis is not resolved with the usual fantasy heroics.
Add to this the incredible work of art that Dorothea has been creating in secret and the truth behind her powerful dreams, and you have a story full of complex truth, though not one of easy answers.
Which is probably why it’s been out of print for years. We tend to prefer heroics and easy answers.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of Suzy Charnas’s work, but I didn’t even know this book existed until Aqueduct released it. Hooray for Aqueduct’s Heirloom Books, which are bringing important work back into print.
Flashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.
My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.
Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.