The Café on Dream Street, by Adriane Brown [Review]

Adriane Brown’s novel, The Café on Dream Street, is a tortured tale of an immigrant from el Salvador, Felipe Sanchez, and his family, trying to make a life in a suburb of New York called Oakmont. The writer’s political bent is clear from the outset. The local cops are redneck anti-immigrant thugs, who terrorize the immigrant family and their business (the café of the title), play poker in the back room of a local restaurant, and plot how to drive the immigrants out of their town. The chief villain cop ultimately frames the story’s hero for a crime he did not commit, resulting in his deportation. Meanwhile, the immigrant family is heroic, having overcome crimes and oppression in el Salvador. The family works hard. Their daughter is a diligent student. They are noble, and now have to overcome the prejudice of American cops and bigoted citizens.

While not every White person in the story is a villain, the chief villain’s son’s infatuation with the Filipe’s daughter seems a bit forced, along with his subsequent sacrifice. His mother has a more tolerant attitude, but she has little influence.

The story comes off as a caricature with evil villains and pure good heroes. The story meanders along, filled with details about the lives of the family members, flashbacks to el Salvador, and long narrative paragraphs. The writing style is generally excessive on description, although well-edited, aside from a chronic need to shorten paragraphs. The lengthy exposition about the intricacies (and injustices) of the US immigration system seem out of place coming from these characters.

Toward the end there is a laughably bad courtroom sequence that is central to the plot resolution, but which is so melodramatic and unrealistic that it loses its power. (Think the climactic scene of a bad Perry Mason episode.)

The author lists the persons who provided research and consultation about the story at the beginning of the book, as if to document her bona fides to be writing this story of triumph over adversity by an immigrant family. I don’t doubt her sincerity. The story wants to be both tragic and inspirational in some respects. But, as a novel, it’s a slog to get through and the schmaltzy conclusion feels more Hollywood than true to life. There is usually more gray in the world. This story is very black (brown) and white.

I received an unsolicited free download of this book from the author, requesting an honest review.

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