CHARLEYHORSE by Cecil Dawkins


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In this second novel by Dawkins (The Live Goat, 1971) there's a lowkeyed story of self-discovery and lesbian love that is finally more predictable than charming. From the moment we are introduced to Charley, the crop-haired, eager young woman in boots and levis who runs her mother's ranch, and prefers horses, cars and airplanes to men, we suspect that she is gay; when Dawkins introduces Juna, a pretty young schoolteacher from New York, into the story, we expect it's only a matter of time until Charley, finally realizing her true nature, will fall in love with the ranch's new boarder, who in turn will reject the attentions of a beefy cattleman in favor of loving Charley. Meanwhile, there's an interesting subplot about Charley's attraction to bronco-busting, but, in fact, Juna and Charley don't admit their attraction until page 163; most of the preceding pages are given over to oblique references to Charley's repressed sexuality, set pieces about horse racing and ranching life in Kansas, and warm, comfy talks between Belle (Charley's mother), Lady (the black housekeeper), and the assorted neighbors who drop in. None of this gives the plot forward movement or accomplishes much at all--except to wrap Charley and Juna's love story up in cotton, muffling its impact. Perhaps for connoisseurs of coming-out novels, but, still, a curiously dated and slow-moving concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking