* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Jackie and Paula move to a small town in the hopes of providing a quiet life for their three foster children: Quinn, Armando and Star. However, a new location has not tamed rebellious Star’s attitude towards her new foster family and her arguments with Jackie regularly upset the household. Not long after they move in, Jackie notices Star crossing the road to see a poorly kept horse on the neighbour’s property. Star is immediately accosted by surly Clementine, the woman who owns the horse and believes Star is violating her privacy. Jackie rushes over to apologize, but bristles at the rudeness of their new neighbour, concluding that Clementine is the type of person they need to avoid. In turn, Clementine doesn’t know what to make of this unconventional family, but doesn’t have much time to think about it because her husband suddenly leaves her, fed up after years of putting up with her negativity. Clementine plunges into a dark hole of shock and loneliness, but when Star runs away with the horse, she and Jackie’s family are forced to put aside their differences and help each other get through the dark days ahead of them.
The biggest thing The Language of Hoofbeats has going for it is solid, believable characters. The book alternates between Jackie and Clementine’s point of view, so readers spend the whole book in their heads becoming very familiar with their hopes and fears, biases and weaknesses. I found the self-deprecation by Jackie and Clementine funny and endearing, and grew to like both characters. I also thought the manner in which both characters work out their prejudices and try to be more mindful of their actions was very convincing.
The Language of Hoofbeats is a fairly straightforward story with no twists or surprises, so it’s not the most riveting read. However, since I liked the two main characters, I was invested in what happened to them.
Although it would be easy to call this book “heart-warming” and “feel good”, The Language of Hoofbeats simply can’t be dismissed as a sentimental family drama. Without weighing down on the reader, the story explores prejudice of various kinds, and what can happen when you drop preconceptions and allow people into your life instead of rejecting them. For what I consider a light read, the story has substance and well-developed main characters that make you believe even the most stubborn people can change.
The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde is currently on tour with TLC Book Tours and I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.