“Infused with beauty, humor, and pain, The Alchemy of Noise is a modern American love story that asks if love can bridge the distance between two Americas.”
—Laura Nicole Diamond, author of Shelter Us and Deliver Me
In a world so full of lonely people and broken hearts, Chris Hawkins, a black sound engineer from Chicago’s south side, and Sidonie Frame—white, suburban-raised, the head manager of one of the city’s most elite venues—meet by work-related happenstance and fall quickly in love, convinced that by that act alone they can inspire peace, joy, and happiness in the world around them. The world, however, has other ideas.
Their meeting is serendipitous. Chris, who owns and runs his company, largely spends his time surrounded by members of his own community; Sidonie, conversely, is rarely outside the environs of work and its predominantly white staff and clientele. But when the club’s sound manager goes AWOL on the night of a big event and Chris is hired to come in as a last-minute replacement, their destinies collide.
Immediately drawn to each other, they fall quickly into an unexpected and thrilling relationship, inspiring myriad reactions amongst family and friends on both sides of the racial divide. But even as their love story evolves, day-to-day tensions, police disruptions, and the microaggressions Chris constantly encounters as a black man in the gritty environs of Chicago become a cultural flashpoint, challenging Sidonie’s privileged worldview and Chris’s ability to translate the unfolding events. After a random and gut-wrenching series of police encounters shakes their resilience, it’s the shattering circumstance of a violent arrest—one in which Chris is identified as a serial vandal and potential rapist—that sends their world into free fall.
He claims his innocence; she believes him. But the forces pushing against them are many and oppressive. With a looming trial, the dissipating loyalties of key allies, and unforeseen twists triggering doubt and suspicion, Sidonie and Chris are driven to question what they really know of each other and just whom to trust, leading to a powerful and emotional conclusion.
Lorraine Devon Wilke’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, ventures beyond the humor and pathos of family drama explored so cleverly in her first two novels to dig deep into the politics of contemporary culture. At its heart a love story, it explores the complexity of race in a suspenseful drama driven by issues of privilege, prejudice, police profiling and legal entanglements, and the disparities in how those provocative themes impact the various and diverse characters involved.
Wilke's rewarding novel (after Hysterical Love) follows the relationship between a black sound engineer and the white manager of the club where he works. Chris Hawkins and Sidonie Frame enjoy the time they spend working together at the Church, a popular club in present-day Chicago. They soon begin dating, and eventually Sidonie asks Chris to move in with her. Sidonie experiences firsthand the treatment Chris receives at the hands of police, when, in a traffic stop, he is questioned about the sound equipment in his car and dealt with in a demeaning manner. When Chris is arrested for criminal trespassing and resisting arrest, and brutally beaten by police, Sidonie supports him as he decides whether to go to trial or take a plea deal. But the possibility that he may be implicated in another, more serious crime causes a fracture in their relationship that may be irreparable. Wilke's story will satisfy readers with its emotional depth and strong characters, making for a memorable novel.