Fate Rides on Clouds by Richard Durand

★★★★  Sitting on the porch of her retirement home in Nebraska, ninety-nine-year-old Beatrice (Bee) Johnson recalls her earlier years. After World War II, when her husband, Billy, returned from service, the couple moved to Harlem where Billy introduced Bee to Howard Klein, a great friend he made while at war. Sarah, Howard’s wife, and Bee did not instantly get on like their husbands so, naturally, they were upset when Billy and Howard announced they were going into business together: the couples would all own and operate a bakery in Harlem. Over time, Bee and Sarah warm up to each other and after a violent crime changes their lives forever, the women’s friendship becomes stronger than they ever imagined, as they go to extreme measures to seek justice.

Durand tells a touching story of love and friendship set in Harlem’s hostile environment after World War II. While the story would benefit from greater character development, the plot is strong and hooks the reader. Race and culture are major themes in Fate Rides on Clouds, as the Johnsons are African-American and the Kleins are Jewish-American. The biracial friendship between the two couples is rare during this time period and makes them stand out. Harassment from the mobsters in Harlem is another obstacle the four friends face as they work tirelessly to run their bakery and avoid being robbed or attacked. The storyline encourages readers to reflect on the many issues of post-war society, and to think about how far America has come since then, as well as the many ways in which racism and hate crimes are still a problem in our communities.