I’ve been deciding for days if I like this book or not. I think I’m leaning toward “sort-of.” This is a coming-of-age story of Alice, a 12-year-old girl whose father breeds and trains horses. Her mother never leaves the house, but stays upstairs in her room all day. Her 17-year-old sister Nona has recently run off to marry a cowboy she just met. This is bad for the business, because the sister was the talented rider, who could lure in girls for lessons.
This story deals a lot with class. Alice’s father is mostly a jerk, but more because of life circumstances. The business is hard and he doesn’t know how to do anything else, so he will do anything to make his barn work. After the departure of the sister, they only have one riding client, which they hope will bring more clients. Due to their lack of clients, they are forced to board horses which brings a group of wealthy women to their barn. They spend afternoons drinking and grooming their horses, but never riding them.
Over the course of the book we see how Alice adjusts to her sister’s disappearance and the family’s lack of money. Saviors appear and disappear as the book winds on, in the form of grandparents, a rich horse owner and, surprisingly, her sister’s husband. I liked how Alice accepted her family’s tragic flaws and just kept working. I suspect this may be based on the author’s own life. I also liked how complex the characters were, especially the father who was both a gentle soul and a tyrant. The writing was good, with especially good descriptive language. The class issues were very well drawn too. Obviously, if you are a horse person, this is a book you should read. So, overall, a good book, but dark enough to keep me from really liking it.