Complex characters inhabit a very real contemporary world in Stephanie M Sellers’ Black Purse. Good farmers care for horses just as well as if they were people, and in the process, animals ease the pain of humans who learn to earn their trust. Under the surface, though, there’s a wealth of human history, family and national, waiting to be scratched and brought to light.
Part-American-Indian, Part-African-American, and wholly herself, belonging in no box, young Exilee is angry and maybe rightly rebellious. But the gentle family that gives her space and a job soon becomes part of her life. And their son—well, maybe he’s always been part of her dreams, though she’s not sure she wants to settle down.
Quiet romance grows awkwardly in the first third of this novel, with deep questions of race and pride discussed at length in the beauty of a long horse-ride. But the story comes of age and finds its footing when the young victim of modern prejudice enters the family’s lives. Animals and nature weave their magic to strengthen and heal, and evidence of historical cruelties weave into present-day mystery and suspense.
There’s a genuine honesty and faith in the protagonists of this tale—wounded people, generous and ready to forgive, facing others whose greed and anger cause only more hurts. There’s a wonderful respect for individuality too, and those boxes we place each other in cannot hold our neighbors anymore than a box holds the grown-up Exilee. The story’s not an easy read, partly for its content and partly for style. Leisurely, sometimes awkward and unedited, not quite fitting any box or genre, it might not flow the way the reader might expect. But the book’s well worth reading and leaves a haunted feeling of history belonging to more than just people or land, and lessons well-learned.
Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.