by Lynne Hugo
Publication Date: April 18, 2016
Publisher: Switchgrass Books
Paperback: 194 pages
Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.
Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job—not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis—and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.
Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.
"Lynne Hugo’s writing is beautiful and evocative, earthy and strong. The characters, the setting, and the way she handles tough issues with honesty, grit, and understanding all make for a wonderful read." —Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss
*Cove Member Cheryl Reviews*
REMEMBER MY BEAUTIES!
Jewel is the second born child to her parents, Hack and Louetta, who live on a once decent breeding farm in the heart of prime Kentucky horse country. Both of Jewel’s parents are disabled and can no longer take care of themselves let alone the four remaining horses they own.
So, Jewel works full-time while taking care of her own family, which includes her drug-addict daughter, her second husband with a daughter who has issues of her own and is about to get custody of his 12-year-old son as well; and then Jewel also runs to her parents’ farm twice a day to take care of them and their horses.
One day Jewel’s mother tells her that her drug-addict/alcoholic brother, Cal, is coming to live with them. Jewel wants nothing to do with him—for what we learn is very good reason. She also has a younger sister who is also like him and doesn’t help out.
With her brother back in the picture, Jewel decides she can no longer continue helping her parents, particularly once she finds her brother continuing his old ways and compromising the well being of Jewel’s own troubled daughter. The only thing Jewel can concentrate on is getting her daughter into rehab and cleaned up. However, she does truly miss the horses, a love she shares with her father.
The story goes on for a few months with Jewel staying away from her parents’ home while many things go on behind her back, involving her husband, daughter and brother. However, when tragedy strikes, the deeply rooted family dysfunction suddenly gets better, which some may find feels a bit hollow and forced.
While I did sense a love and passion for horses at times (one briefly shares his POV in the story), and enjoyed the lyrical prose, some readers may find the narrative very contrived. The painful, dysfunctional themes of sexual abuse and drug addiction in Jewel’s family can feel shallow, needing to be explored in greater dimension than is likely possible in under 200 pages.
I would recommend this story to readers who enjoy reading about extreme and disturbing family dysfunction. Unfortunately, passionate horse-lovers may well be disappointed.
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Lynne is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient who has also received grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.
Her memoir, Where The Trail Grows Faint, won the Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize and her novel, A Matter of Mercy, received the 2015 Independent Publishers Silver Medal for Best North-East Fiction. She has published seven novels, one of which became a Lifetime Original Movie of the Month. Through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program, Lynne has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren.
Born and educated in New England, Lynne and her husband live in Ohio with a yellow Lab feared by squirrels in a three state area.