Short Stories 366:58 — “Let Us Dream,” by Alyssa Cole

coverIt’s probably obvious by now I’ve completely fallen in love with Alyssa Cole novellas, what with this being the fourth one I’ve talked about this month, but yeah. I’ve fallen in love with Alyssa Cole’s novellas. Be they contemporary or historical, they’re amazing, but the audio historical novella quartet available on Audible is so well performed by Karen Chilton it needs to be said again.

So, yeah. I said it again. Amazingly good.

With “Let Us Dream,” we’ve moved into 1917 Harlem, and our heroine is a brilliant woman working the angles during the suffragette movement. Now, Bertha isn’t a polite quiet women working the patient, endless angle of soft discourse, no, she’s a cabaret owner walking the finest of lines between legalities and doing whatever she can to keep her women safe, as well as performing both on stage and in her day-to-day life to keep everyone at arms length and her life completely in her own control. Or as completely as a black woman in Harlem in 1917 might accomplish.

She hires a dishwasher, Amir, and initially they get off on the wrong foot, but Bertha’s used to that from men—what she’s not used to is Amir’s apology, nor learning he’s not at all what she thought he was at first glance, and falling for a man at all. Amir has major troubles of his own (not the least of which being he’s an illegal alien in the eyes of the law), leaving the two with the odds not just stacked against them, but pretty much trying to bury them alive.

Cole moves these two through their arcs with deft touches of characterization, growth, and with such a brilliant processing of their emotions that they felt like people I knew by the tipping point. And, again, the historical world-building here is top-notch and these glimpses of a foreign country and time I don’t exactly encounter much in Canadian discourse was as educational as it was engrossing.

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