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Essays & Reviews
  Dorothea Dreams





Dorothea Dreams


  “... this novel, as beautifully layered as Dorothea's wall, is also a very human story about love and loss and continuation.”  
  — Publishers Weekly  
     
  "... an intimate book, a book to savour privately. Charnas has a high-burning talent."  
  — James Tiptree Jr.  
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"An original novel, straddling several genres... about a reclusive, elderly woman artist in New Mexico who has dropped out generally... The subplot finds some very well-drawn Chicano youths... fearful of arrest abducting a school art class in a van on its way to Dorothea's for a rare visit... The youths are armed, violent adolescents and danger is real... Somehow the youths bloom beyond stereotypes while long talks between Dorothea and [her old friend] Ricky have an adult spunk and intelligence not often found in fiction.... overall, uncliched, low-keyed, the excitement anchored in character.
— Kirkus Reviews

"...fascinating reading.... It is not the structure of the novel that impresses most, but the characterizations and thematic richness... the love scenes between Dorothea and Ricky, the dying man, are beautiful and touching rather than lurid or syrupy... the complex and reclusive Dorothea... is a magnificent creation, fully realized: a middle-aged artist with enough dormant strength to sustain three people, as she discovers through the ordeal... This is a good novel not in spite of being a ghost story but rather because it's a ghost story — and a beautifully realized one at that."
Washington Post Book World

"It is a fantasy, ... but one that takes reality seriously. Charnas treats frankly the decline of Dorothea's visiting friend Ricky, who is dying of cancer. She... writes a literate prose warmed with the gleanings of people watching: the cameo of a teacher in over her head is delightful. She also roots her metaphysics in earthly detail, in the best fantasy tradition... "
Albuquerque Journal

"This unusual novel subtly weaves an element of fantasy throughout its realistic story with sensitive, memorable characters and a compelling plot. A winner."
Coast Book Review Service

"... the characters are as interesting and complex as the issues. Ricky, the dying travel writer, and Blanca, the feisty, asthmatic adolescent, are especially fine. The descriptions of Pinto Street made this transplanted New Mexican very homesick indeed. Dorothea Dreams is a good read on a grey winter day."
Fantasy Review
 
  "Once in a great while you run across a book that is so good that you want to push it in front of people's faces and force them to read it. Dorothea Dreams is... a superb fantasy novel about art, death, and courage.... If you're looking for characters who live and breathe and love, you'll be enthralled."
  — Aboriginal Science Fiction

"Injustice... is a major theme of the novel. This is balanced by a sense of pattern and compensation in human affairs. Charnas' main literary strength is her emotional grit: her ability to bring life to good, workmanlike, flinty prose, which in turn gives life to the people we meet in the novel."
— SF Commentary

"Charnas portrays an older woman trapped first in isolation, then in a frightening reality where only paranormal experiences offer freedom. The vivid perceptions of this 'mature' protagonist ('She could see him: a child bringing death') enriches an unusual plot."
— Bookwatch


"The author of The Vampire Tapestry delicately probes the borders of fantasy in a novel that offers very human solutions to an ancient struggle."
— Library Journal

"... an excellent novel almost entirely in a mainstream mode.... The supernatural element is genuine, if not quite what it appears to be.... In vivid, poignant scenes from a range of viewpoints, spiced with just a hint of the fantastic, Charnas reveals the confusion and splendor of humanity."
— Locus

"Charnas's latest reflects her deep knowledge of history.... [She] has a fine command of language and a great gift for using regional settings effectively. "
ALA Booklist






















Retooled Dreams:
I've long wanted to get Dorothea Dreams into print again, and I was delighted to have the book accepted by publisher Timme L. Duchamp as the second volume in Aqueduct Press's special line of Heirloom Books. In preparing for this reprint, I took full advantage of the opportunity for substantial revision, tightening up the writing and making the book more focused, strong, and clear.

After all, this novel was first published in 1986 - I've had a lot of time to sharpen my writing skills since then!

The story that I wanted to tell then is still a story that I want to tell now, so that story itself hasn't changed. Instead of describing it myself, I'll quote here from a brief introduction written especially for this edition by Delia Sherman, a fine writer herself and one of the founders of the Intersitial Arts Foundation.

"Dorothea Dreams is a meditation on the infinite variety of human frailty and the breakdown of even the toughest characters' coping skills in the face of death. For a domestic-realist, this would have been enough. But Suzy has also written into Dorothea Dreams a political thriller aboout a corrupt corporation pressuring a long-established Latino neighborhood out of existence and a young man's coming of age and a portrait of the artist as an aging woman. Oh, and a truly creepy ghost story."

   
Editions:    
Aqueduct Press Paperback: July 2010 ISBN: 978-1-933500-39-3  
Berkley Publishing Group e-version January 1987 ISBN: 0425094758  
Arbor House Hardcover: April 1986 ISBN: 0877957770