Review: THE LANGUAGE OF HOOFBEATS by Catherine R Hyde

The Language of HoofbeatsThe Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine R Hyde

Lake Union Publishing GLBT

This month brought me a couple of books I would probably not have chosen to read for recreation. Both deal with some difficult situations in problematic environments that are polar opposites.

“Hoofbeats” is set in rural California. The main POV narrator, Jackie Archer-Cummings, is moving with her wife Paula and their adopted son Quinn to a small town of Easly. Also with them are two foster teens, a troubled teenage girl named Star and a young man of Guatemalan descent, Mando, whose mother is in prison on a falsified charge. The reason for the move is Paula’s career – she’s a veterinarian who had been unable to set up her own practice in Napa Valley due to an overabundance of vets. In Easly, she will be the one-and-only vet around. Though this was a plan Jackie agreed to, she finds herself isolated and lonely as a stay-at-home mom to the kids.

The prospect of making new friends seems dim when her first contact with the neighbor across the road is a shrill complaint from an angry middle-aged woman who objects to Star trespassing to visit her horse. Clementine D’Antonio is nobody’s friendly neighbor; she seems to exist to attack anyone and everyone who comes near her, and upon finding the new arrivals to be a same-sex couple, she immediately runs back home and starts complaining to her husband. And for her husband Vernon, that is the last straw; after many years of enduring her displeasure with the world, he packs up and walks out.

This could so easily have been a dance of cardboard characters, but over the course of the story the reader gradually comes to know and understand even the least likeable of them. This is a terrific story because it allows the characters – even the youngest, Quinn – to grow and change. I hadn’t expected to like this novel very much, but it drew me in and even though I really could not identify much with any of the characters (for instance, I would not want to take responsibility for a teenage girl with the habit of running away), I’m glad to have met these folks and wish them well.

Five hoofprints!

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