Promise Me a Dream
Promise Me a Dream is a gentle, tender story about two people coming together at a turbulent time in American history. Unsparing when discussing racial violence, it also tells a lovely story of community and first true love. And while I had a couple of issues with the stiffness of its prose, overall it is a richly rewarding, sweet tempered novel.
Chandra Williams dreams of becoming a dancer and actress, and of moving to New York City from her Barbados home. When she eventually emigrates to America to live with her mother, she finds the country amazing yet feels a little homesick for her island. Working as a librarian while hoping for her acting break, she happens to be in the right place at the right time when a handsome man sits beside her on a park bench with his lunch.
Joel Donovan is a recent college graduate who is going to law school in the fall but utterly dreads the notion of attending. If he’s being honest with himself, he knows he’s doing it to please his formidable mother, but something – something important in his life – is missing. One of those somethings proves to be Chandra. The other is provided by the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, which galvanizes Joel in the direction of justice and fairness.
When Chandra finds out about the burgeoning civil rights movement, she vows to become a part of it, and together, they’re going to find their way toward a better life – for better or for worse.
Promise Me a Dream is a nice book that’s both high on conflict and low on relationship drama. There’s not a lot keeping Chandra and Joel apart once they start to get to know each other, and for some folks that kind of low-drama romance is going to be a bit on the dull side. All of the book’s conflict comes from the police state in which Chandra and Joel live, as well it should.
The book is a really nice exploration of two people who’ve been looking for love for a long time, their romance, and it captures in a lovely way the world of the late sixties in New York.
I liked Chandra’s relationship with her mom, which is congenial and loving. I really liked Joel’s various friendships, which also expand upon the sort of person he is, and the sort of relationships he cultivates.
There is an excellent subplot that discusses both racial inequality and police brutality. Neither is given short shrift, and each gives the reader a lot to contemplate.
The book’s biggest problem is a tendency to lean on somewhat wooden phraseology and prose. It was something I didn’t mind, but some readers might find it annoying.
Promise Me a Dream is a sweet romance with a secret punch that will surprise readers and delight them all the same.