Email this review


Big changes are in the works for a down-and-out Texas dude ranch in this literary novel.

Sally Rideout returned to the Rocking R ranch six months ago after years away. Now she manages the Texas property for her father, trying to keep the old dude ranch in the black while living in an ancient Airstream trailer out back. One day, after a morning run, she meets Kenneth Robinson, a guest who has come to the ranch with his two young horse-loving daughters. Kenneth runs a New Age–y spiritual institute in Austin—“We put on workshops about peak performance, finding the right livelihood…esoteric stuff like that”—and he thinks the Rocking R might be a great place to hold some of his organization’s retreats. That night, Sally’s father, JW, is attending a professional wrestling match. The lines between performer and audience get a little blurry, and JW ends up punching a wrestler in the face. This leads to an unexpected arrangement between JW and two of the wrestlers: tag-team journeymen Billy “The Kid” Hargis and Sterling Spencer, who are tired of traveling around the country and like Texas just fine. They ask JW to be their promoter, and he agrees, hoping to turn the Rocking R into a wrestlers’ training camp. But can one ranch play host to a bunch of rambunctious wrestlers and a group of yoga-loving peaceniks? Pounds’ (Grand Finale, 2019) prose animates his characters and their foibles with precision and understated humor: “Sally stared at him with all the spite she could muster. JW was shooting another of her plans in the foot, and she was tired of it. Having JW around was sometimes harder than raising a child. Or even a champion pig.” The plot is fueled by the dynamics of the many eclectic personalities that make up the ranch’s extended community, and readers will enjoy spending time in their collective presence. The book’s only flaw is that it’s easily a hundred pages too long (and maybe even more), which creates some lag in the pacing. That said, rambling yarns like this one can perhaps be forgiven when they meander a bit too far.

A colorful and immersive comic tale about the transformation of a family ranch.

Page count: 410pp
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: