Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review: The Language of Hoofbeats

It was the cover and the reputation of the author which caused me to pick up this book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, called The Language of Hoofbeats. Hyde is also the author of the famous book/movie Pay it Forward. With that endearing story behind her, I felt sure this would be a heart-warming tale and I was not disappointed. It was a beautiful story, full of tension and angst leading to redemption.

Jackie and Paula, a young lesbian couple, have just moved to a new isolated village in California with their adopted son and two foster children. As soon as their foster daughter, fifteen-year-old Star, heads across the road to see a horse on the neighbor's property, sparks begin to fly. The neighbor, Clementine, flies out in a rage telling the girl off for trespassing. She is not only worried about the legal ramifications of the girl approaching her high-strung horse, but also miffed that the horse seems to respond so favorably to the girl. When the mothers approach to apologize for Star's curiosity, Clementine clearly disapproves of their lifestyle and is quite rude (although, as another character points out, Clementine isn't really prejudiced ... she's an equal-opportunity hater). All is not well in Clementine's world, and it is about to get a whole lot worse when Star steals the horse and runs away. The two families are thrown together during this tense trial and because of Clementine's caustic nature, friction is inevitable.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Clementine and Jackie. The reader begins to see how past tragedy has devastated and soured Clementine. Life in the present is none too pleasant either. I felt intense empathy for many of the characters. This author knows how to suck you into the story, develop the characters so you really care what happens to them, and deliver a message without preaching. It was a beautiful story illustrating what motivates people to behave the way they do. Moreover, the positive changes in the lives of Clementine and Star are inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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