Dream World: Tales of American Life in the 20th Century
by William Charles Krebs
Authors Press

"To me, loving someone is committing myself to that person, cherishing her, wanting to put her needs and feelings first, ahead of mine."

Immersive and fully realized, this novel is an epic romance that follows two young individuals on their path to independence and finding love with each other. Liz Anderson from Michigan and Willie Johnson from Ohio are both entering college with the idea that they want to be more independent from their parents. However, this is difficult when they each attend schools near their family homes. For this reason, both of them seek a place elsewhere.

Liz's family is quite protective, so she finds a potential location far away in Florida, where her friend Pat had previously moved with her parents. To support her planned year of college there, she seeks a job at the local theme park, Dream World, as a tour guide. On the other hand, Willie travels to Florida with his friend for spring break and ends up finding a job at Dream World before deciding to also enroll in college there. The two do not meet until one day at the theme park when Liz, in her role as tour guide, has a conflict with Willie, who is running a ride and separates her group. When they begin to talk later, they form a friendship that lasts the summer and soon becomes quite romantic.

While Liz, who has always dreamed about a romance in the vein of Austen’s iconic Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, leans into her happiness with the friendship, Willie becomes frightened and ends up ghosting Liz. He soon finds himself catching the eye of Sue Jordan, a woman with a lot of experience in seducing men. Although Willie is initially happy to lose himself in the physical relationship he shares with Sue, he soon realizes that he lost a valuable emotional connection when he cut off contact with Liz. At this realization, Willie begins to pursue her again but with much more gravitas. However, Liz has heard of Willie’s relationship with Sue, and the blinders, for her, are off. She is unwilling to forgive him and has been cultivating a new relationship of her own. As the year progresses, many characters will come into play as they cross Willie and Liz’s paths.

The writing here is quite descriptive, fully developing the characters, their backgrounds, and their families. Beyond Liz and Willie, many other characters are also three-dimensional with complete histories and their own stories to add to this book. In some ways, picking up this book is like starting and completing a whole series within one text, as readers are exposed to many subplots and back-and-forth relationships.

The setting of the 1970s is likely inspired by when Krebs originally wrote the book, although it was not published until much later when his wife Sibyl undertook this effort to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. As a result, the book immerses the reader in the time period, including topical themes such as the women’s liberation movement, also referred to as women’s lib. Pat is a champion of this movement in the book after experiencing a frightening loss of power when the man she was seeing disavowed his relationship with her upon an unplanned pregnancy. The juxtaposition of the male and female ideals and equality is ever-present in the book and creates an interesting discourse between the main characters, coloring their relationships.

Another major setting is Dream World itself, a theme park that resembles Disney World. It is not surprising that Krebs was struck with the idea for the novel after a visit to Disney World as this similar park really comes to life through his words. This becomes most critical after Willie and Liz break up, and Liz notices how the rides that seem so magical at Dream World are less so when you look beneath the surface and can see the tracks on which they operate. This clearly parallels her disillusionment with romance after Willie’s mistreatment of her. These parallels in themes appear throughout the book and make it a more thoughtful and complex read than the typical romance.

While the overarching storyline is one of love, this book is a fully immersive exploration of the 1970s and the reality of building independence and romantic relationships for young couples. Heartfelt, complex, and intriguing, this novel is an in-depth exploration of fully realized characters and settings. Luckily, Krebs also wrote three other novels before his death, and so the world he so richly describes can live on as the others are published. This is certainly a gain for anyone who has read this novel, as these characters are sure to feel like close friends that would be a pleasure to visit again.

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