Dakota or What’s a Heaven For: Review and Free Giveaway

Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For by Brenda K. Marshall

Release date: 2010 /  473 pages

Synopsis (from jacket cover):   The lives and schemes of frontier politicians, Northern Pacific Railroad executives, bonanza farmers and homesteaders converge in the story of Frances Houghton Bingham. Emotionally complex, willful and resourceful, Fances is seduced by the myths of opportunity driving teh settlement of Dakota Territory, and dares to dream of a new world in which to realize her unconventional desires.

First sentence: You will say that I am making this up, as if it were a small matter to invent truth.

Review: When the publisher contacted me about reading and reviewing Dakota, I fortunately did not ask about the length because accepting a 473 page book days before Thanksgiving would not have happened.  However, Dakota was worth the investment of time and would be a delightful choice for any book club interested in historical fiction, pioneer epics, how the role of women has changed throughout the founding of our country, or rich, character-based narratives.

Dakota embraces the spirit of My Antonia, but provides much more background about the development of the Dakota territory just prior to statehood.  Marshall brings to life a host of characters — from the fiercely independent Frances to her sodden, hopeless husband and his demure, lovely sister; from their bombastic, ambitious father to the Scandinavian immigrant Kiersten.  Marshall is able to give each fully-realized character language unique and consistent to his or her personality and spirit.  After the first few chapters, a reader could open any page and immediately know which character was speaking.

In addition to the rich characterization, the untamed land of Dakota is vividly created: wind-swept landscapes, ambivalent rivers, brutal winters, and golden prairies.  The Dakotas are not a land for the faint of heart, as I know from living in Minnesota for twenty years.  But The Black Hills and Badlands are stunningly beautiful, even at their most formidible.

I do recommend this epic.  I have stated before that I believe few works of literature should demand more than 5-6 hours of a reader’s time and stand firm in this conviction.  I would have cut 50 – 100 pages of the political history, but this is my own subjective wish.  Many will embrace this aspect as firmly as the character studies and often this is the aspect that sparks the best discussion.

Interested in winning a copy?  Please leave me a comment and I will choose a winner by the weekend!

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12 Responses to Dakota or What’s a Heaven For: Review and Free Giveaway

  1. Linda says:

    This sounds like an important read for our understanding of American history. Please count me in for the giveaway.

  2. Peg Sperli says:

    Our 3 year old book club have read so many great bks.(and some not so great) but no one has picked one about old west. Would love to win–we need to expand. Thank you, Peg

  3. Lisa Garrett says:

    I love historical fiction. I would love to read this.

  4. Debbie says:

    Historic fiction is my favorite genre. Thanks for the great giveaways!

  5. Diane says:

    Thank you for the great review on this book. Our book club has done historic fiction but no one for the old west before. This one sounds like a good one for a book club. Count me on this giveaway. Sounds quite interesting and I love historic fiction.

  6. Mary Gillick says:

    Live in South Dakota and we do not have this book. Thanks for the review and a chance to win this book (or we will have to order) and a great suggestion for our book clubs.

  7. Elaine J says:

    Westward expansion is one of my favorite themes: the people and the history of our country. Would love to read this. Thanks for introducing it.

  8. Jo says:

    This sounds like a must read to me! Not only do I love historical fiction, my father grew up in South Dakota. Thanks for the chance!

  9. Anna says:

    Your enticing review lead me to list this one on my wish list…along with many of the others you’ve written about. Please enter me in the giveaway.

  10. Wendy says:

    Sounds like an an intriguing book club read.
    Count me in for the Giveaway! Thank you!!

  11. Sandi Neal says:

    I’m a Kansas girl and anything relating to the prairie fascinates and intrigues me. Can’t wait to read this!

  12. Melanie says:

    I’ve probably missed your drawing, so I’ll have to go out and buy a copy. My great-grandmother lived in Dakota Territory before it became South Dakota.

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