Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Family. Most of us are lucky enough to have a pretty good, rather innocuous family life. But there are lots of kids out there who aren't so lucky. They can't live with their parent or parents for a variety of reasons. The luckiest among them are placed in loving foster situations but even the luckiest are indelibly marked by the experiences in their earlier lives that pulled them away from their mothers and landed them in the uncertain limbo of being a foster child. The best foster families are the ones who truly become families, embracing the children living with them for as long as they need a stable and safe home. But even these created families aren't always the right fit for a child, no matter how much love and tolerance they find. Catherine Ryan Hyde writes of one unconventional family with two moms, an adopted son who was once their foster child, and two foster children, one of whom is new to their family and a handful to boot in her new novel The Language of Hoofbeats.

Jackie and Paula, along with their three children and their crazy menagerie of animals are moving to rural California so that Paula can take up a new veterinary practice. Jackie is leery of the place, worried about judgments (she and Paula are married), struggling with their newest foster child, Star, who is angry and standoffish, and unimpressed by the nasty, cantankerous, unhappy neighbor, Clementine, across the street. Star is prickly but when she sees the high strung, neglected horse across the street, she feels called to him. She knows that he needs to be cared for more than Clem is willing or capable of doing. Clem is terrified of Comet but since he was her late daughter's horse, she is not willing to let go of him. She too knows that the horse needs more than she can give but she forbids Star to come around, warning her off the property. The only recourse Star can see is to take the horse and disappear with him, give him the chance to run, to be free. With Star and Comet's disappearance and the ongoing search for them before something terrible happens, Clem must draw closer to the family across the road despite her misgivings and prejudices.

The novel is narrated in turns by Jackie and by Clem, neither of whom is a fan of the other. Jackie's narration allows the reader to see inside their family's life, to know sweet Quinn, who is terrified of losing his J-Mom and P-Mom like he lost his late biological parents, and to know Mando who is hurting and reluctantly thawing out for Paula and Jackie when he realizes that want him to be reconciled with his mother, who has done nothing wrong besides be the victim of racism which unfairly landed in jail. Jackie's narration also allows the reader to see the kind and gentle love that she and Paula offer to the kids who live with them as well as the regular and normal family life they lead together. Clem's narration shows the tragedy of her daughter's suicide and the shock of her husband's leaving her because of her inability to be happy or to like anything. It gives a reason for her attachment to the neglected horse pacing a corral in her front yard and it shows her revelation, by fits and starts, that she is disliked, feared, and avoided by pretty much everyone in town, a revelation that inspires her to want to change if she can.

The novel is chock full of current issues: lesbianism, racism, mental illness, suicide, foster care, the judicial system, and adoption to name a few. With so many, it's hard to delve into each of them to the extent that they deserve. But each issue highlights the need, hard as it sometimes is, for tolerance and acceptance, to look beyond the surface and to help each person in this world feel their full worth as a human being. This is a tale of broken hearts healed by love, how we define family, the importance of community, and finding what we need in this world. It is a nice, feel good read that reminds us we all have unhappiness in our lives but we also have the ability to find a way through those trials with the help of those around us and that help finding our place comes in many different forms.

For more information about Catherine Ryan Hyde and the book, take a look at her web page, Facebook page, follow her at Twitter or read her blog. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. A lot of hot button topics for sure! I love the themes of acceptance and love and family presented in this book.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  2. I've enjoyed this author before - this sounds like one I'd enjoy as well. I will look for it.


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