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The Language of Hoofbeats Paperback – December 9, 2014 by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Author)

On occasion, I’ve been accused of being a “spoiler” by telling too much of the plot in a review, though typically I try to avoid summary or synopsis and focus on style and significance. However, frankly I believe it is only honest to lay out the framework of this tremendously readable and meaningful novel. “The Language of Hoofbeats” by Catherine Ryan Hyde deals with several extremely challenging themes. First and foremost, of course, is the fact that Paula and Jackie Archer-Cummings are a legally married lesbian couple who have adopted one child and are fostering two more. Paula is a large animal veterinarian, and the family has just moved to the small town of Easley, CA from their former and much-loved home in the Napa Valley. Their across-the-street neighbor, Clementine, is a belligerent, antagonistic woman, who has a horse named Comet that she keeps locked in a small corral. The horse is fed and watered and the corral mucked out, but otherwise totally neglected. Clementine is too afraid of him to even go into the corral. The oldest of the three children in the Archer-Cummings household, Star, is an extremely difficult, defensive and intransigent fifteen year old. She is also horse crazy, and immediately discovers Comet, falls in love with him, and is infuriated by the neglect he is suffering. ..and meanwhile, predictably, Clementine is equally infuriated that this brash girl has the presumption to come on her property, touch her horse, and otherwise make a nuisance of herself. And when Clementine is angry, she doesn’t mince words. The story is told in first person, chapters alternating between Clementine and Jackie as narrator. The tone is pitch-perfect, and the characterizations of these two women as well as all the other “cast members” are masterfully developed through these alternating perspectives. The major crisis event is of course predictable; Star, completely unable to bear the perceived misery that neglect has visited upon Comet, and being prone to running away due to previous experiences, steals the horse and heads for the hills. This has the inevitable negative effect of pushing Clementine over the edge with a major breakdown, so Paula and Jackie have to deal with that as well as the anxiety of the search for the missing horse and girl. Catherine Ryan Hyde, however, has a miraculous touch for developing a plot in which negativity and grimness merge seamlessly with healthy attitudes and positive outcomes. There is no unrealistic “changing” of people’s natures so much as a development of more positive and constructive attitudes and an awareness of better ways of being and doing. In a way, the “working out” of this story reminded me very much (in tone, not in plot detail) of one of the cherished classics of my childhood, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Star reflects Mary, and Quinn is the Dickon character (he’s even a redhead). And of course Clementine would parallel Archibald Craven, so mentally unbalanced by a past grief as to be unable to deal with anyone or anything else. And, like that wonderful novel, “The Language of Hoofbeats” ends up with a full complement of happy endings and ongoing joys. Check it out!

Review “Readers will be pulled into Hyde’s exquisitely written story with characters so sharp you’ll feel like you know them personally. Verdict: Read this book, pay it forward, then pass it on!” —Library Journal “Hyde’s latest is a wonderful read, especially for her fans.” —Booklist “If you are looking for a story that highlights the complexity of human relationships, told through some intensely flawed yet relatable characters, then look no further…this is definitely a story that will stick with me.” —Running ‘N’ Reading

The Language of Hoofbeats Paperback – December 9, 2014 by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Author) Review

As a former foster mom and now adoptive mom I could SO relate to the moms in this book as well as the children. Such a lovely story so well written. This author has a gift for writing about people in a compassionate and real way. Too many books portray foster children as awful or so troubled they can’t get over their challenges. This book showed the children in a thoughtful and realistic way. Some kids are easier to be around than others but kids in foster care , though they have their challenges, are often amazing individuals. Foster care blessed our lives in beautiful and difficult ways and it is wonderful to read a book that portrays that side of foster care. Also, Jackie’s feelings about Star made me turn red because I too have struggled with some of the things she feels in the book. So real. Absolutely a book worth reading. -Read Reviews-

This book should and most likely will, become a classic. It is that incredibly good. The depth in the writing and the plot is just classicly great. I could not put this book down. The characters you meet–Jackie, Clementine, and Paula each tell her own story. There is another character who is important, too–Star. What you have here is a story where you get every side to it. Each character tells you her side of the story. All the main characters happen to be females. Jackie and Paula are an unconventional couple with foster kids, who have moved into a new neighborhood. Clementine is a mean, hateful (sensitive, hurting) individual who thinks she does not like the new ‘family’. Clementine has a beautiful but neglected horse who Star, one of Jackie and Paula’s foster kids, quickly falls in love with. Star sees the animal for what it truly is–sensitive, hurting. ..I LOVED THIS BOOK. It teaches a lesson about life, and helps us to see weirdos, misfits, etc. in a different light. (I don’t mean the characters really are weirdos or misfits–those are just labels many of us would normally give them) This book is so much more than just a great summer read. It is a keeper. My congratulations to the author. Super job. Keep writing. (If you have a ‘day job’, I think you should quit it. The general public needs you. )

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