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I remember ponies calling me over to feed them handfuls of grass from the time I was four. Growing up, ponies and horses dumped me on manure piles then ran to their barns. I’ve tackled their heads to get bits in, only to be scraped off. A pony picked me up once between my shoulder blades in its defiance of being led from the pasture. Its friends the cows chased me. Most of the time I ended up having a great ride getting my teeth jarred loose.
A product of the late sixties, my childhood gave me the freedom to ride a bicycle to school. I tied string to the handlebars as reins and named it Lightening. It was my first horse. I rode every mutt pony, horse no one else would, any neglected nag in the back field and made friends with any girl who had two.
When I was in my late twenties, after some college, including Language Arts, then the USAF, marriage and babies, I managed to conquer my dream and became a horse owner.
One of them died two years ago. Sugarbabe was a Tennessee Walking Horse. She won first place in confirmation in North Carolina. She won my heart the first time I yelled, “Do you want a bath?” And she answered. Sugarbabe blew, tossed her long neck and ran to the barn. Her sister, Class, is still with me. She is twenty. I am forty-nine. Both of us, at heart, are only thirteen when we are out on the trail.
on Feb. 13, 2012 :
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.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Dec. 01, 2011 :
BLACK PURSE by Stephanie M. Sellers
From the very first this romantic suspense introduces you to Exilee; a young and passionate untamable woman of mixed race. Exilee clearly educated with awareness and loyalty to her Native American, African American and White origins as well as the cultures that bind and separate the three aptly manages to be both the heroine and the victim. This complex and interesting character guides you through the plot with strong back-flash narrative as well as in-the-moment experiences.
In Black Purse author Stephanie M. Sellers uses colorful and bold verbal brushstrokes of foreshadowing to prepare the reader for Exilee’s journey of extremes. Daringly covering all that can be found in the best and worst of us all love, compassion, friendship as strongly as hate, betrayal and revenge.
In the town of Cameron, North Carolina in an Alfred Hitchcock type suspense the various characters are full of layers and complexities. Exilee’s friends and family are multidimensional and significant as are her equine friends. The author’s deep connection with horses is conveyed so completely to the reader, that at certain points the desire to saddle-up is unavoidable. Exilee is one of a number of characters through which the love and understanding of the distinctively named horses; Tiponi, Misun, Choctaw and MacGregor are explored. The horses are as far reaching in the story as any animal can be without being given an actual voice; their feelings and intent are strongly conveyed by their actions and re-actions. The smells, tastes and feel of the North Carolina Horse country invite the reader to crave Southern food as well. Exilee’s connection with her four legged companions allows them to communicated and interact in surprising ways, to the extent of believable telepathy. The story unfolds and is told through Southern history and modern issues that can very well surprise the reader with unexpected twists and turns.
The story paints a picture in which unique and little known facts of the Underground Railroad are revealed. This is also true of the Lumbee’s Native Americans recognized as a tribe in North Carolina. This with strong background narration as well as observed by characters with very different thoughts and ideas to fill the reader’s mind with possibilities. Black Purse tackles hard issues of the day in a strong and direct manner as Stephanie Seller’s characters discuss, experience and struggle with their sentiments on prejudice, race, sexuality and American values.
The juxtaposition between all that is good in America as portrayed by the Crowson family whom you’ll just want next door and would be honored to call friends. This is fittingly contrasted with all that is wrong in America as represented by others and most by the Wilkes family is bound to raise some eyebrows and could create heated discussions. Just as Stephanie Sellers characters have their strong opinions and guide the reader to the possibility of tremendous growth and change. They also guide the reader through an interesting and strong rural tale.
The book is sure to affect the knowledgeable horse lover as one not as familiar with the equine. The reader will certainly finish the story with a strong understanding of the bond between people and horses. The absolute awareness that animals display through their sense of smell and realize who is to be trusted and who is to feared which super exceeds that of their human counterparts. It should excite the memory of those who have truly stood by in times of need and those who have strongly disappointed. The sequel Bruce Black due out in 2012 is sure to be as colorful and entertaining as is Black Purse.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Oct. 22, 2011 :
When I approached the author to review this book, I have to admit that I had no idea what to expect. I am a big fan of historical fiction, and I knew that was partially what this book was. I also knew it had something to do with native Americans. I also figured this would be a step outside my comfort zone, and I was certainly right about that.
The first third of the book was very difficult for me to read. I have not ever been a fan of books written in the present tense. That is honestly just a personal preference, but as I went on, I got used to it. I didn't even notice this issue by the time I was two third into it.
The other thing that made the first third of the book difficult for me was that the style of writing was reminiscent of another great author who is not a favorite of mine. "Streams of consciousness" is a style of writing that was popularized by William Faulkner, and I would say that Stephanie Sellers tends to write along those lines. Again, it is just a personal preference of mine. I prefer to read a book that tells a story in a very straightforward manner and does not go back and forth between present, past, and future. That is what streams of consciousness is. But enough of a literary lesson.
By the time I was more than halfway through the book, I did find myself finally caring for the characters and quite interested in the story. And it seems as though the writing improved. It was as though the first style of writing was left behind, and I could finally grasp the story line.
Speaking of the story line, the story in this novel is one that needs to be told. I have not ever read much about Native American prejudice, and I applaud the author for tackling this topic in a wonderful way. She also tackled other issues such as hate crimes against homosexuals and the struggles of those with mixed racial blood. Even in this day and age. I don't think I realized until reading this book how much these things still exist and are sometimes even acceptable in some societies.
I would say that this book would appeal to young adults more than mature adult women like me. I struggled through the "overdone" romance scenes (I suppose I have become jaded in my older years), but I was grateful that there were no intimate details. I also appreciated the fact that the profanity was extremely limited--much better than most books I have read in recent times. I could have done without the big drinking scene, but again, that is just personal preference. I appreciated the history in the book concerning Native Americans and the Underground Railroad.
Overall, I give this book a 3-star rating. While I did not always enjoy the style in which the book was written, the story itself is one that very few author would tackle. It is a story with lots of twists and turns, and it is told with real heart. Even though I cannot say it was my favorite book, I appreciated the story, and I believe that other people would as well.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100 percent mine.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)