Characters from three previous novels—Solomon’s Oak, Finding Casey and Blue Rodeo—merge in Mapson’s latest, featuring a young mother and an older woman who must cope with unforeseen challenges.
Skye Elliot was once an excellent student who dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but a rodeo circuit rider named Rocky, an unplanned pregnancy and a substance abuse problem derailed her ambitions. Fresh from a long stint in rehab, all Skye now wants is to reclaim her daughter and get a job, but she’s taken off guard when her ex-husband doesn’t pick her up as expected. Instead, her long-absent father—who’s rechristened himself Owen Garret—collects her from the clinic in the New Mexico desert with her beloved horse in tow, and Skye has no choice but to join him. As they embark upon a journey underscored by Skye’s anger toward her parents and her frantic search for her daughter, Gracie, Owen offers a straightforward explanation for his extended silence: He was in prison. Skye’s resentment begins to dissipate as she views Owen, and eventually others, from a different perspective, but her search for her child hits several obstacles: namely, a broken-down car and a lack of money. Pausing briefly to retrieve Owen’s old dog, they finally land in Santa Fe, where, unbeknownst to Owen, his lost love now lives. Painter Margaret Yearwood has recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and worried as she is about her ability to cope with the future, she's even more concerned about her adult son. Peter has been deaf since 15 and has recently gotten a cochlear implant, but he suffers from other demons, including a broken marriage and a drinking problem. Mapson connects each character via a ghost’s intervention, intuitive animals and a couple’s new venture, but the narrative loses clarity and stalls with the introduction of multiple back stories.
Despite many positive components, including vivid descriptions of New Mexico’s rich culture; endearing dogs and horses; and an inspirational message about surmounting shortcomings, the novel’s lumbering pace outweighs all.