Monday, March 5, 2007

Heartland on the Homefront

Sandra Dallas is one of the best kept literary secrets in the Midwest. Her books cleverly disguise themselves as historical women's fiction but then pack a wallop at the end to jolt even the most jaded reader.

Dallas' strengths are her realistic and likeable characters, their unique observations about their sometimes ordinary and sometimes extreme situations, and her deft mixture of easy pacing with page-turning pockets of action.

One of my favorite books of all time is The Persian Pickle Club. It's a Midwest historical mystery and I defy anyone to know "whodunit" before the last page of the book (TomA says he figured it out and his theory works for me. But he's a literary genius, so he doesn't get to play in the same sandbox as all us lesser reader-mortals.:))

Dallas' latest novel, Tallgrass, is set in a time period she has not yet explored, but in a place she knows and loves well, wartime Eastern Colorado. Rennie Stroud is the youngest child in her family, living happily on her parents' sugar beet farm during World War II. Her brother has enlisted in the service; her sister has moved to Denver, and an internment camp for Japanese-American citizens has been constructed next to her father's farm. The townspeople are suspicious, frightened and prejudiced, but Rennie's father exhibits tolerance and wisdom beyond his years and the time period. Everyone is living warily, yet peacefully, until the violent murder of a young girl on another farm bordering the camp.

Fans of Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson will find something to enjoy in this novel.

This book was discussed on The Walt Bodine Show 's Book Doctors program May 17, 2007. KCUR 89.3

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