Lynne M. Spreen's Dakota Blues spotlights the life of a middle-aged career-woman whose life moves from an eight-lane CA highway to a Dakota backroad with the sudden death of her mother. Karen Grace, the novel's main character, must choose between her current, fast-paced, materialistic, meritocracy and a life of reconciliation--a return to stronger, simpler, darker country roots. It's a journey that tempts the reader to evaluate his or her own life, shining a light on what is noble and good, lasting and rooted, tethered to foundational antiquity. As Grace loses her job and begins on her road trip, its emblematic symbolism is not lost on us. This could be your trip, too, dear reader. So, we, as readers, may observe Karen's transformation with both fear and excitement. Furthermore, this is a novel built on solid dialog, a cacophony of spirited women's voices: "She may have been tiny but she (Karen Grace's mother, Lena) was a spitfire...I remember she played drums in the high school band, which was unusual for a girl at the time." It's a novel built on swift, fully-realized detail, including the details of the kitchen and table: "Karen took a bite of hot potato salad, tangy with cider vinegar and dill." Deft with internal dialog, Spreen portrays a strong, woman character with Machiavellian moxie, but a character also with a full, altruistic heart, one discovers, as the novel progresses. It's a full and complex, modern character--one you may recognize. Spreen plumbs the depths and gives a complex and intricate portrait of the career-woman Karen Grace, a possible Everywoman for our age. Having fashioned a debut novel with breadth and depth, Spreen is a writer to admire and follow.
Reviewed by Kevin Rabas. Kevin co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State University and edits Flint Hills Review. His stories and poems have been published in Nimrod,Cottonwood, Event, and elsewhere. He has three books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner's Red Guitar, and Spider Face: stories.