DAYNA DUNBAR

  

Author

Motivational Speaker

Workshop Leader

Book Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Thirty-something Aletta Honor, the protagonist of screenwriter Dunbar’s quirky debut novel, is so pregnant she can’t fit behind the wheel of her borrowed pick-up truck, and her husband, a drunk, cheating former high school basketball hero, Jimmy Honor, has left her and their three children. Stuck high and dry in Okay County on the Oklahoma plains in 1976 with a stack of bills piling up and no financial windfall on the horizon, Aletta resorts to peddling burnt, homemade kolaches (fruit-topped pastries) and powder-mix lemonade at the Okay Czech Festival parade. This fails, but when she inadvertently saves a woman’s life through a psychic vision, Aletta reluctantly reconsiders using the gift of prescience that she first discovered at age eight to save her and her children from destitution. But her unwieldy supernatural powers often seems more of a curse, and she is never quite sure what someone’s passing touch might reveal (“She didn’t have any control over what came through. All she did was report it”). Her forecasts of future contentment or visions of painful past events unsettle Okay’s upstanding citizens and earn her epithets like “Indian witch” and “psychic sorcerer.” As Aletta embarks on her new career as a psychic reader, she’s ostracized by Bible-thumping neighbors and forced to confront her mother’s shame and an indirectly related family tragedy. Dunbar’s no-frills writing style, engaging pacing and cast of kooky saints and sinners make Aletta’s unconventional story about taking control of her life a pleasant, all-too-rapid read.

Forecast: Comparisons to Billie Letts and Fannie Flagg are apt, and Ballantine’s book club promotion targets the right readers—Dunbar’s debut could rack up solid sales.

 

Kirkus Reviews - Oklahoma psychic, in an impressive first from screenwriter Dunbar.

 

When her good-for-nothing husband Jimmy, a former all-state basketball player, walks out, Aletta Honor realizes she has no way to support her three children - especially not with a fourth on the way. But it's 1976 and all over Okay County the nation's bicentennial is being celebrated, along with Czech Day. Plan A: bake kolaches and sell them to parade-watchers. A few hours later, the house is filled with clouds of smoke. She can't sell burnt pastry, and Plan B, lemonade at ten cents a cup, isn't going to put food on the table. What next? hang out a shingle that says "Psychic Reader - Drop-ins Welcome." Aletta has had the ability to converse with ghosts and see the future lives of others since she was a young girl, though she was often mocked for her dreaminess. Her mother, a staunch member of the Burning Bush Battle Church, an evangelical sect that battles to save lost souls (Okay County is well-represented in this demographic), sure as hell won't approve. But the desperate people who appear on Aletta's doorstep are grateful for her help, especially in matters of the heart: Aletta can track down a straying husband and even predict whether the town tramp will find another sucker. And somehow, between readings, she still has to raise Sissy, Ruby, and Randy without their daddy. At the age of 34, handsome Jimmy Honor has gone middle-aged crazy and is fooling around with said tramp, not to mention tooling around in a red-white-and -blue painted van. How'd she ever get into this fix? Flashbacks to her childhood on a hardscrabble farm reveal her love for her father Clovis, who died too soon, and miracles in store for her yet. God works in mysterious ways - when He's paying attention.

A very appealing debut from Dunbar, an Oklahoma native, who's tough-minded tenderness and authentic voice makes the most.

 

Booklist - published by the American Library Association.

 

Dunbar's novel is both sensitively written and absorbing. Tough, self-effacing Aletta is an appealing heroine, and Dunbar's careful and understated writing keeps her novel from becoming a generic story of small-town female grit. The story is Aletta's, but in a device that echoes Aletta's clairvoyance, the perspective shifts frequently from Aletta to her sensitive, watchful children to her womanizing and abusive husband. This is an impressive first novel, with a warmhearted and tough heroine.

Meredith Parets

Writing Coach