Sidonie Frame is the manager one of Chicago’s buzziest small concert and event venues. When her sound manager goes AWOL along with essential equipment she has her assistant bring in another company to fill in temporarily.
Chris Hawkins is owner of Sound Alchemy and immediately he and Sidonie have a connection.
Author Lorraine Devon Wilke tells the story from two points of view and establishes her protagonists as equals in regards to education, income and aspirations. The only difference, other than gender, is Chris is black and Sidonie’s white.
Temporary work becomes permanent and friendship turns to love for Chris and Sid. The last thing they think about is the colour of each other’s skin, but that’s not the case for some friends and family members.
This is upsetting for Sidonie, but not surprising and she’s prepared to deal with it. What she isn’t prepared for or incapable of handling is the reality of a black man living in America.
Here’s how Wilke has her character, Sidonie, express it.
“What I didn’t know then is that by falling in love with you I would be stepping from my world into yours. Or maybe, more accurately, straddling both. I didn’t know that because I didn’t fully realize there were two worlds, two really distinct worlds with different sets of rules …”
The Alchemy of Noise is an entertaining love story while at the same time a scathing commentary on race relations in America. The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.
The book itself is a pleasure to read with believable dialogue, fully developed characters and exceptionally good diction, something that’s becoming increasingly rare. The plot is well-crafted and try as I might I couldn’t find one scene that didn’t develop character or advance the plot or both.