**Thanks NetGalley for Remember My Beauties for this review, which contains affiliate links at no cost to you.
Imagine being the dutiful daughter growing up. Now, your elderly parents depend on you to do most everything for them. Your teenage daughter has gone off the rails and is into drugs and sketchy guys. You have a full-time job. Your husband’s kids live with you and have their own issues. Yet your parents don’t seem to appreciate all your sacrifices for them, instead preferring your wayward brother.
That’s the stressful world Jewel inhabits in Remember My Beauties. I was drawn to this book by its description and by the lovely cover. Jewel’s escape is her beloved horses, who she grew up with and who still live at her parents’. When things get to be too much, she heads out to the stables for some peace with her “beauties.” She takes care of them: “Use the pick to clean around the shoe to the bars, sole, and frog, get out whatever he’s got stuck in there. Packed manure, glass, a stone: any of it can make a horse go lame. I cry over what’s stuck in me for which there is no pick.”
Time with the horses gives Jewel the opportunity to contemplate her life, and what it has become — “Somehow the choices in my life just made themselves, dragging me along behind them.”
Jewel’s dad has always been the one in the family who took care of the horses, but now he is blind (“how he missed running his own life”). Jewel says of her dad, “Sometimes I want to kill him for loving horseflesh more than his own flesh and blood. But then there’s this: I get it. Sometimes I do, too.”
The book does a great job of capturing the often-complex relationships we have with family members. It also depicts beautifully the therapeutic value of our relationships with animals. The writing is good; dialogue all is realistic and not forced (this is harder to do than you’d imagine!).
The book ends, predictably, with a climax that shakes the “house of cards” the family has become. But various characters grow in positive and surprising ways, and the ending is hopeful.
Great reading if you enjoy a good story, and bonus points if you love animals too.
Not long after I’d posted my review somewhere (NetGalley? GoodReads?), the author, Lynne Hugo, kindly emailed to thank me. We exchanged a few emails, and I learned that she’s truly a delightful person. The horses in the book were named after actual horses she’s known (or known of) in real life!