Dusty, a lover of movies and stories, is nineteen, pregnant and dreaming of a life in the motion picture industry. Leaving her downtrodden mother and her gang-affiliated brother back in Oklahoma, Dusty takes a bus to Los Angeles hoping to start a new life.

Although life is not always easy for her, Dusty counts herself lucky to have found a good place to live, a job with an accommodating boss, and Roshi, an Asian man who teaches her the benefits of meditation. Even when crises arise, Dusty is able to work through the bad times with a positive attitude.

Dusty knows her dream of making movies is a long way away but knows too that in time she will succeed.

Theme of the Book

It is the support given by friends that enables Dusty to reach for her dreams. Friendship, which can often take the place of familial support, is the key to the novel.

What I Liked About the Story

The best part of Dusty Dreams is the picture drawn of Dusty’s roommates. These are two people who have their own problems, their own backstories, and their own ambitions. Paulie is an actor and a gay man who is too shy to establish a relationship. He becomes Dusty’s best friend and is full of humor and support. Angelica, the third person in the apartment, is an artist who seems cold, negative, and depressed. It is not until late in the novel that we learn of Angelica’s history, a history that goes some way to explaining her behavior. The relationships that exist among the roommates are the most realistic element of the novel. Ms. Dorris has written beautifully of the friendships that can exist between such different people all of whom are trying to succeed in a complex and competitive environment.

Tony, the son of Dusty’s boss, is another complex and sympathetic character. Born into an Italian Catholic family, Tony never quite succeeds in meeting his father’s expectations. The psychological conflict Tony suffers is well described and perfectly believable.

The plot is quite easy to follow and events move along at a reasonable pace. The two crises that occur lend drama to the story even though readers will easily be able to predict the outcomes.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

At one point in Dusty Dreams Angelica accuses Dusty of being a Pollyanna. Truer words were never spoken. Dusty seems to take everything with “the best of all possible worlds” outlook that can make the reader question her sanity. For a young single mother, Dusty never seems to have a sleepless night, always manages to be able to pay for what she needs, and is incredibly lucky to find a boss who gives her unlimited time off and roommates who provide unlimited support. I wonder how many young single mothers can claim the same.

While the roommates’ characters are well-developed, there are secondary characters who are little more than stereotypes. Why does Dusty, for example, assume her boss, Anthony, is connected to the mafia? Is it the fact that he is Italian and Catholic? Is it an example of Dusty’s naiveté? Nothing in Anthony’s behavior leads to Dusty’s conclusion. Roshi, Dusty’s meditation teacher, is another stereotype: the old Asian man who speaks in mysterious platitudes. And Marta, whose story is tragic, is treated as the obligatory villain. Even Dusty’s mother is given only superficial treatment as an abused partner and forlorn waitress.

Ms. Dorris has written several other books, most of which seem to be in the self-help vein. This one, too, has elements of self-help with its long passages about the benefits of meditation.

I wish there had been less meditation and more character development among the secondary, though important characters.

Finally, this author seems never to have heard of past perfect tense. There are so many instances where it should have been used and it wasn’t.

Final Say

There is great potential in Dusty Dreams. However, a little less Disney and a little more realism would have helped.

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