Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: a book club review

Some seductions - sometimes the best ones - begin slowly. They build with a smile. A laugh. A caress on the cheek. The passion builds, takes on a life of its own. And the next thing you know ... you can't struggle to recall the person's name. They cross your Facebook timeline and you pause, questioning if you even remember correctly that you ever felt anything more than that they exist. While I was reading Anton DiScalafani's lovely novel The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls I was enraptured. It started casually enough, even a bit predictably, gained speed and yearning. And then it was over and I can't really remember the details. 

Which is not to say it wasn't a good book. There are luminous moments in Yonahlossee. Lovely scenes, a compelling and complex heroine, thought-provoking plot lines and themes. But I can't really tell you many details. It continues for a chapter or two past the natural ending. Some stories are wrapped up that I really didn't care about while other story lines are dropped prematurely. 

And yet, I'd read it again. Mostly on the strengths of writing like this: 
  • . . . luck changes all the time. God grants happiness only to those who seek it.
  • If Yonahlossee had taught me anything, it had taught me that it was impossible not to care, not to marvel at the mystery of girls' affections, which were hard won and easily lost.
  • My parents had sent me away because they saw I was a girl who wanted too much, wanted badly, inappropriately. 'Woe be to you for wanting too much.'
  • I was a girl, I learned, who got what she wanted, but not without sadness, not without cutting a swath of destruction ... 
The themes of wanting, of female friendships, of self knowledge and acceptance, and of luck (and perhaps how luck is influenced by class and beauty) are all themes that capture my attention. I wanted more. 

And that, I suppose, is the lesson. I wanted more. And we we've already read: "woe be to you for wanting too much."

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Day changes, hostess changes, location changes, but where there's a will there's a book club dinner. There are times when nothing will do but to order in some Thai food, crack open a Syrah, and chat.

We were a small group tonight, which is sometimes preferable when one or two or five of us have a lot to share.

Quiet. Intimate. Honest. There was very little book talk this evening, but I don't think anyone minded. We'd all had similar experiences of the book and had more compelling things to talk about.

Unfortunately, Erin L wasn't there tonight, but we're sure she's reading on the beach in Hawaii.

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