He’s come of age, but the appealing young cowboy still has life lessons to learn in this beautifully observed third novel from Hagy (Snow, Ashes, 2007, etc.).
Will Testerman knows horses. He was 8 when he bought a pony and 16 when he started wrangling; he’s worked the rodeo circuit. But there’s little to keep him home on the small ranch outside Lost Cabin, Wyo. It can’t sustain his family. Both his embittered father and his brother Everett must work second jobs in town. Besides, Will, now 23, has a restless spirit. His father sees him as an impractical dreamer, but his schoolteacher mother encourages him to spread his wings. Will tended her during her breast-cancer scare; that’s now in remission. The novel opens with Will buying a beautiful 2-year-old filly for a bargain price. She will be a “development project” for the patient Will. He talks to her a lot, building trust. He won’t ride her yet (no saddle until she’s three), but they’ll be going to California together to meet Don Enrique. Hagy leaves the name hanging, a nice bit of suspense. First they will go to a guest ranch near Cody, where Will has a summer job as corral boss. Hagy demonstrates an easy mastery of her material; whether it’s horsey stuff, a sex scene or an ugly poker game, she nails it. The estancia in Anaheim is a shock. It turns out Don Enrique is an Argentine businessman who hosts polo games. His manager is a swine. Five frightened, underfed Argentine teenagers do the barn work. Will’s fantasy of learning the polo business, unwisely based on a single conversation with the Don, begins to crumble. Will his innate decency hobble him with this tough, mercenary crowd? And can he protect his beloved filly from these rapacious rich folks? It will prove a hard landing for them both.
Plot lags behind character, but Hagy reads horses and people so well you won’t mind…so much.