A “sweeping and raw story of courage, resilience, and clear-eyed grace” (Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author) about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father in the vein of My Absolute Darling and Room.
Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan’s relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.
“[A] heart-pounding, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it debut novel” (O, The Oprah Magazine), Dark Horses explores the themes of abuse and resilience in a way that will leave you transfixed. This is “a provoking and needed book” (Booklist, starred review).
Mihalic's taut, bracing debut takes a daringly understated approach to its exploration of sexual abuse. Fifteen-year-old Roan Montgomery is hoping to ride her way to an equestrian Olympic championship, like her father before her, who serves as her coach, trainer, agent, and publicist. He's also been sexually abusing her since she was 10, which she's done her best to convince herself is a necessary evil in order to have the life she otherwise relishes. Compartmentalizing this aspect of her existence gets more difficult after she grows attracted to classmate Will Howard, a development that causes her father to become even more controlling. Mihalic has a firm grasp of the intricacies of competitive riding, and she grounds her narrative in a sense of the day by day, or even minute by minute, decisions involved in negotiating its dangers, which gives a reader an understanding of why Roan might hope the danger her father presents can also be contained and navigated. As the dread the novel evokes grows increasingly overwhelming, the reader is torn between that perspective and the knowledge that, from an objective point of view, Roan is dealing with a monster. The novel takes every narrative hurdle as nimbly and astonishingly capably as Roan does the courses she rides. This is a powerhouse.
This was an intense book and I loved it!
Read it in a day...
Although there were hard to read moments due to the sensitive subject matter, it was well written and I couldn’t put it down because I was so engaged in Roan’s story. She is strong, focused, and determined and ultimately triumphant as a survivor.