Dakota Blues is a debut award winning novel by Lynne Spreen. The title seemed to be a typical of a Mills and Boon or Harlequin romance. But the book was anything but. Although Dakota Blues will make you smile a bit, it is more likely to make you cry or tear up, reading about the bittersweet moments we all encounter in life, and the choices we make.
Karen Grace is a hot shot executive working in Southern California. She takes a few days off to attend her mother's funeral. Her mother hails from a small town in North Dakota, a place where their German ancestors immigrated to about a century ago. Karen hasn't been home in years, and hasn't met her extended family for several years.
Back home, its as if time stood still. Nothing has changed much starting from the cutting board over the sink. Karen gradually meets the neighbors and cousins, and some old friends. She extends her break to a week, and tries to relate to her roots. Frieda is a woman in her 90s who talks Karen into driving Freida's RV to Denver, where she wants to see her grandchild's baby. Karen reluctantly agrees. Now begins the road trip from hell. Lynne Spreen gives a good narration of the landscape, from the mountains to plains. Karen and Frieda encounter something they did not anticipate. Finally they reach Denver to face another unexpected truth.
Lynne Spreen has a flowing narrative style. Although the story doesn't really stall anywhere, you probably will because many scenes will make you think about your life. The angle of the ex husband was perhaps unnecessary but adds another element. So do the German ancestors. The book is largely touted as being about the experiences of a middle aged woman, or about a mid life crisis. I think this could happen to anyone who is career obsessed and has been isolated from their family or home for a long time. It also seems that a lot of this might come from the actual experiences of the author, being a debut novel.
There is a lot to be found in Dakota Blues, and there is high drama. Although it is a must read, it lives up to its name, and will certainly bring on the Blues many times while you are reading it.
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