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Kyle's remarkable debut novel is an engrossing coming of age tale set in a small dusty town in the arid expanse of Western Colorado. Twelve year old Alice Winston lives on a small ranch, where her father raises and trains horses. Alice's older sister was all the advertising he could hope for, with a natural ease and skill mounted on an elegant Palomino at fancy horse shows. When she elopes with an itinerant rodeo cowboy, Alice's father finds himself struggling to make ends meet. Soon bored wealthy women are part of the scene at the ranch. The boarding fees for their pampered horses provide desperately needed cash flow.
Alice's mother is severely depressed, spending virtually all her time confined to her room alternately dozing and gazing at the television. After her daily routine helping her father with chores in the barn, Alice is left to her own devices, escaping into a sort of pretend world in which she creates a life for herself which includes friends, romantic interests, and a sense of well being. But as the saying goes: "reality bites" and Alice has a contining struggle to cope with life as it goes on around her and to hold on to the pretend life she wants to enjoy.
Kyle never flinches at portraying a cruel reality - that financial strain, loneliness, and ruined hope will cause some people to turn on the defenseless. Alice's father can only focus on keeping enough money coming in to pay the bills. Alice, the horses, the integrity of the buildings on the ranch all begin to suffer from the fallout of his economic struggles.
This is not a pleasant, pot of gold at the end of the rainbow type of read. Yet Kyle's book is very thoughtful and deeply engaging. I hope we see more books from her in the future.