“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
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 and social injustice 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.
SYNOPSIS: 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 was serendipitous. Chris, who owns and runs his company, is surrounded largely 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, 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 of Chris’s life 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, 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 to endure, 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 who to trust, leading to a powerful and emotional conclusion.
PRAISE FOR THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE:
• 2019 Readers’ Favorite Int’l Awards, Gold Medal, Fiction: Literary
• 2019 International Book Awards, Finalist, Fiction: Multicultural
RICK KOGAN, Chicago Tribune & After Hours w/Rick Kogan, WGN Radio 720:
“A fascinating book, really, really quite something… a real Chicago novel. I do find something quite courageous about this book. It’s not only terribly provocative and moves like a freight train, but it’s a very, very, very ambitious book.”
“10 OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS TO MAKE TIME FOR IN 2019: An impactful story about race, equality and love, The Alchemy of Noise has quickly become a highly-buzzed-about read in the vast community of female writers.”
“Wilke’s rewarding novel…will satisfy readers with its emotional depth and strong characters, making for a memorable novel.”
“Part awakening, part trial by fire, The Alchemy of Noise is a timely social novel that unfolds with tenderness and cruelty: A story on fresh beginnings marred by police brutality, The Alchemy of Noise tests the limits of love. Lorraine Devon Wilke’s sharp interracial romance strikes at the heart of contemporary race issues with thoughtful, vulnerable characters who excavate their own beliefs to reaffirm what’s worth fighting for… Between its heartfelt message for allies and its cautious navigation of what it’s like to be made a target, a profound optimism emerges. Love can’t solve everything for Sidonie and Chris, but it continually encircles them.”
READERS’ FAVORITE REVIEWS:
“The writing is emotive and highly descriptive, painting snippets of life for Chris as he struggles with the everyday racism and assumptions put upon young black men all across America, and Sidonie’s struggle to connect and understand is intelligently handled. Neither of them is perfect, but together they find something special of their own. Wilke’s superb pacing and frank dialogue guide us through every harrowing moment as they fight hard to protect it. Overall, The Alchemy of Noise is a highly entertaining and engaging piece of drama which shines a light on pivotal issues of today.”
“Wilke’s prose is cautious and empathetic, probing at the edges of politeness, taboo, and uncomfortable truth …the directness and openness with which the author explores the topic, as well as its continuing relevance, make this a novel that will still read as daring to many.”
“In this devastating and touching new novel from Lorraine Devon Wilke, two unlikely lovers find themselves in the middle of a corrupt investigation that will change their lives forever. Chris is a black sound engineer and when his path crosses with Sidonie, a white and successful venue manager, the two quickly fall into a whirlwind love affair. But everything suddenly changes when Chris is arrested and charged with horrific crimes that will show the young couple just how wicked the world can be.”
BOOKED UP GIRL BLOG:
“I absolutely loved this book, and found myself engrossed in their story and journey. I felt a somewhat deep connection with Sid and Chris’ characters. The story is just heart wrenching – I really couldn’t put the book down, and it will stay haunting me for a long time to come. If you haven’t yet read this – it must be next on your TBR!”
BARB TAUB | WRITING & COFFEE. ESPECIALLY COFFEE. A blog:
“The writing of The Alchemy of Noise is hauntingly beautiful, shocking, and compelling. I feel like I know so many of the characters, that they are the family and friends and fellow students I knew in Chicago. And yet I don’t know them at all, can’t believe they would react as the characters did here. But, as Sidonie points out, I’ve read the papers, listened to the news, heard the casually racist and discriminatory remarks. And even with a love as big as Chris and Sidonie’s, I don’t know how you get past that. Maybe reading this stunningly well written book is a good way to start.”
“This book. Stop what you are doing. And read this book. It’s heartbreaking, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s daring in the most important way… This book haunts me – but it’s a good thing. I cannot stop thinking about it. I feel as if Sidonie and Chris are real people, and in a way, they are – as the gut-wrenching brutality, tension, and racism is entirely plausible in this day and age… I loved every minute of this story.”
GEORGIA ROSE BOOKS:
“The exploration of all the relationships in this novel is excellent. The characters rich and rounded, the way they react and interact absorbing. It is very well written. It’s intelligent, educational and eye-opening, though still easy to read, the prose flowing and drawing you in. The Alchemy of Noise is an excellent novel I thoroughly enjoyed and don’t hesitate for a moment to recommend.”
JANNI STYLES1 BOOK BLOG:
“From the challenge of loving narrow-minded relations to finding love without trust impossible, no matter your race or level of privilege, this book is rich with raw human experience. Deftly executed with grace and the author’s own keen sensibilities, the story left me wishing it would never end. It is well-paced with moments of epiphany that had me feeling I was not just a reader but part of the story. In some way, we all are. Every single one of us can take responsibility for changing history for the better, lessons of yesterday are a chance to improve, to hate less, love more and a chance to be at peace with all people.”
“The Alchemy of Noise was not what I expected. With each page I found myself becoming more and more intrigued. Then I had to step back for a minute and see the much larger picture she was painting with her words. Emotionally wrenching, well written and developed, Wilke has communicated the fears and doubts of being human in a world where intolerance of difference is rampant, where being humane is not extended to those who are different. This is not a light book, it is one that will stick with you for weeks if not longer. I finished this book about three weeks ago and just now sat down to write the review. Having come from a family from the deepest part of Indiana where racism runs unchecked and fueled by the past, I still feel the impact of this story.”
“This is not a run-of-the-mill love story. But Lorraine Devon Wilke is not a run-of-the-mill writer. The Alchemy of Noise, a powerful interracial romance with rich, cinematic quality, is gritty, clever and superbly crafted, sustaining a gut-wrenching level of tension until the final page.” ~ Jane Davis, author of Smash All the Windows and seven other titles; winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Award.
“Every character was authentic. Sidonie and Chris have great depth; they’re real-life people, and I wanted them to overcome, for their love to prevail. The plot line was great as well. The microaggressions, the hidden and overt racism, the passive-aggressive low-key racism—it was all in there, all very plausible and realistic. The book is a sort of Racism 101, an eye-opener for allies.” ~ Regina McRae, BLM activist, award-winning baker/owner of NYC bakery, Grandma’s Secrets, and author of Taking the Cake, Your Ultimate Cake Guide
“Beautifully written, perfectly balanced, and evenly paced, The Alchemy of Noise, Devon Wilke’s story of love, redemption, and racial conflict in the shadow of contemporary urban America, is a tour-de-force from an author at the top of her game.” ~ Mark Barry, author of The Night Porter and Carla
“A powerful novel that wraps the love story of a mixed-race couple in a ‘ripped from the headlines’ narrative, The Alchemy of Noise is alternately touching, painful, sweet, and enraging. With its exploration of race and privilege, and stunning, unexpected plot twists, it demands your attention from beginning to end.” ~ Susie Singer Carter, award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter (My Mom & the Girl and Soul Surfer)
“Reading this combination love story and page-turning legal drama, I was particularly moved by the exploration of the psychological and emotional impacts of racism on each of the characters. The Alchemy of Noise dives into those issues in new, unexamined ways, and as a professional working in the field of PTSD and family trauma, I found that element to be a powerful and authentic driver of this very topical story.” ~ Nancy Locke Capers, writer/producer, licensed psychotherapist
“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. Author Lorraine Devon Wilke writes with authenticity, insight, sensitivity. Her characters Sidonie and Chris (and the loved ones in their orbit) stayed with me like old friends whose success I am rooting for, but is in no way guaranteed in a world where skin color may be destiny.” ~ Laura Nicole Diamond, author of Shelter Us and Deliver Me
“The story of Sidonie, a white woman, and Chris, a black man, is a well-written and compelling tale of love that offers a glimpse into the unique experiences couples face in interracial relationships. When allegations of criminal activity are lodged against Chris, the two are forced into a confusing and frightening reality which shakes them to their very cores. The Alchemy of Noise is an intense emotional journey, and Wilke masterfully guides us through it with laughter, tears, and thought-provoking insight.” ~ Kimberley A. Johnson, author of Peyton’s Choice and The Virgin Diaries
“The Alchemy of Noise is an honest, empathetic, and powerful look at racial tensions in modern America, explored through one interracial couple’s burgeoning relationship—and how it plays on the concerns and assumptions of their friends and families. The writing is excellent, the characters full and real and conflicted—just like life.” ~ Laurie Boris, author of The Call, a Baseball Novel and A Sudden Gust of Gravity
“Lorraine Devon Wilke’s The Alchemy of Noise includes brushstrokes of nightlife, music, the club world; true-ringing elements that too often in the lit-game are swung at and missed. Her portrait of Chicago as a representation of contemporary urban culture is so vivid it stands as a character all its own.” ~ Junior Burke, author of A Thousand Eyes and Something Gorgeous
Given the subject matter of this book, I wanted to share a little background as to why I felt this specific story was mine to tell, particularly at a time when concerns surrounding “cultural appropriation” and whose voice gets to tell stories of race are widely debated and deserving of meaningful conversation.
Earlier in my life I spent six years in an interracial relationship. As educated as I thought I was on the topic of race and bias, and as open-minded and racially progressive as my upbringing had been, it turns out I’d had only a glimpse of the bigger picture and so very much to learn. Witnessing, tangentially experiencing, and reacting to the “micro-aggressions,” recurring police harassment, and flat-out bigotry my partner dealt with on a day-to-day basis forever changed my worldview on the reality of race in America.
I learned then, before the phrase had even been coined in its more current context, the insensitivity and arrogance of “white privilege.” I was forced to acknowledge the racial disparities found in law enforcement and the justice system. I vicariously felt the pain of the “million little cuts” inflicted by ignorant men who’d admonish him to “get over his black thing,” terrified women who locked their car doors as he walked past, or friends whose casual racism was brushed off as “just a joke.”
Later in my writing career, it struck me that this experience offered not only the seeds of a topical and dramatic story, but brought into the conversation the specific, shared, and disparate perspectives of a mixed-race couple. That seemed a useful point-of-view to explore, particularly when lack of experiential empathy too often leaves participants in the discussion struggling for true understanding. As a long-time contributor at HuffPost, I referenced my personal experience in a couple of op-eds on the topic of race, which not only gave me access to a wider audience open to the conversation, but allowed me proximity to dialogue and feedback from both sides of the racial divide. As I began to formulate the narrative of this novel, that education helped bring the story into the current zeitgeist.
But I’m also aware of, and have occasionally written about, the controversies surrounding white writers including black characters (or any characters outside their own culture) in their literary works, which has sparked a debate about who gets to tell those particular stories; who has true insight to offer; who should talk, who should listen, and how we process information from the side we’re not on. Even with the sensitivities surrounding those issues, my gut told me I had a worthy story to tell. Because of those sensitivities, I was determined to accomplish that goal as authentically as I could, allowing the unvarnished, sometimes painful, and frequently illuminating viewpoints of each character to be honestly expressed throughout.
From there I created a fictional set of characters, put them in contemporary Chicago (the city of my birth), plotted out their story arc, and gave them many of the challenges and obstacles I’d witnessed and experienced in my long-ago relationship… ones that, sadly, still resonate in current times. Adding perspective gleaned from prodigious research, myriad interviews, and essential input from sensitivity readers, THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE came to life with as much humanity, truth, and credibility as I could capture. At its heart it’s a love story, if one framed by the provocation of race dynamics in modern day America. I hope you find it both genuine and moving.