A blind Navajo teenager and her thoroughbred head to the Kentucky Derby.
In this debut novel, Moore introduces Victoria Jo Pinto, a blind high school junior living with her brother and grandfather on the Navajo reservation. After Victoria and her brother, Calvin, stop a stranger from beating a horse in a restaurant parking lot, they find themselves the owners of a thoroughbred who loses every race. The family spends time training the horse, now named Victory Jo after her new owner, and Calvin starts racing, slowly teaching the animal how to beat local competitors. Victoria also bonds with the horse, though a riding accident makes her reluctant to take the reins herself. As Victory Jo begins to show promise as a racehorse, Victoria decides to enter the thoroughbred in the Kentucky Derby. A collective fundraising effort both on the reservation and off supplies the entry fee, and a caravan of supporters helps escort Victory Jo to Kentucky, leading the Navajo Nation president to observe that “except for the forced march our people made in 1863, there have never been this many of our people away from home at the same time.” Will Victory Jo finally reach her potential in this Triple Crown race? Moore has lived on the Navajo reservation, and shows familiarity with both the physical environment and Navajo culture. (That experience does not always produce an authentic rendering of the culture; the use of “Medicine Man” instead of hataalii, when Navajo words are used in other instances, is grating.) The plot requires some suspension of disbelief, and readers familiar with horse racing will note liberties taken with the entry process. But Victoria is a compelling protagonist, balancing her heritage with the concerns of a typical teenager, and frequent but minor grammatical and punctuation errors (for example, “the Stalley’s”) do not keep the story from being an enjoyable one.
An engaging tale of a contemporary Navajo girl’s connection to her horse and culture.