McMullin recalls a lifetime of hardships and blessings in ranch life and education in her debut memoir, the winner of two North American Book Awards.
The author was adopted from a Texas orphanage shortly after her birth. From a young age, her adopted family raised her as a Christian and encouraged her fondness for horses. However, when the family dynamic changed due to financial difficulties and the birth of a new sibling, McMullin says that she was emotionally abandoned by her adopted parents, who didn’t acknowledge her learning disability. In fifth grade, she writes, they briefly sent her into foster care due to her low grades, and they also sold her dog and expressed gladness when her horse died. Meanwhile, she suffered from physical impediments, including an eye ulcer and a debilitating back problem. McMullin’s faith gave her the strength to finish school and maintain a stressful work life. Her loyalty, strong work ethic, and patience endeared her to employers and to a group of friends who offered her stability and love, and she eventually became an educator and author. As her life continued to bring misfortune, including massive injuries from an automobile accident, she still had faith in God and relied on her network of friends. Overall, this memoir is a testament to the endurance of the human spirit in the face of emotional and physical pain. The author consistently notes the need for love and encouragement when dealing with both people and animals as well as the necessity of prayer and thankfulness; it’s almost a rhythmic incantation in the text. Readers will feel as if they’re walking alongside McMullin as she tells her story and advises readers how they, too, can survive setbacks; she couches all the painful experiences she relates, including a hostile confrontation with her adopted father, in lessons. With her memoir, the author effectively opens up a space, into which she invites readers to be a part of the family she longed for as a child.
A heartfelt work that takes its time conveying lessons of pain and kindness.