CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005
Kim lives and breathes horses, and it is this passion which is the basis for Anne Louise Macdonald's first novel, The Ghost Horse of Meadow Green. Everything in the book seems to be touched by the important place horses have in Kim's life.
From this central point, various plots come together against a Nova Scotia setting. At first, the reader doesn't have a very positive picture. Kim is shy and unpopular, new to the area, and the target of bullies at school who call her "Crackers." Her home life is also difficult, set against the bookends of her mother who is an artist, her dad who is intellectual but odd and hard to get along with, and Gramma-Lou, Kim's elderly and ill grandmother who is coming to live with the family. Just to add to the mixture, there are stories about the generations past which include strange happenings, dramatic deaths and ghosts. One ray of hope for Kim is Gramma-Lou's arrival, but there are hints this may not go as planned.
It is, of course, a horse who saves the day. Ghost is the catalyst through which Kim finds friends and gains some badly needed self-confidence. Eventually Ghost becomes Kim's own horse, helping her and her father to a better understanding of one another and making Gramma-Lou's final days happy ones.
MacDonald has created believable and interesting teenage characters whose dialogue and behaviour fit the age group and the situations in which they find themselves. The country setting vividly evokes horses, meadows, stables and a rural lifestyle. Despite its title, the novel is not a suspense-filled ghost story or mystery. Rather, it is a coming-of-age tale where readers grow along with Kim as she learns self-esteem and assertiveness. Much of this happens because of horse-related events, but Gramma-Lou is an Alzheimer's victim, and McDonald uses this also as a method of teaching Kim about life's ups and downs. Given chapters that are about 10 pages in length, the novel moves fairly quickly and will hold the attention of younger readers.
At first, readers may question the interpretation of "the horse of Kim's dreams." Is this a ghost animal which exists only in her imagination or a flesh and blood horse which is the perfect companion for her? Readers, like Kim, learn the answer to this question and watch as the profound effect that the care and affection she gives to her equine friend spill over to the many other relationships in her life.
Ann Ketcheson is a former teacher of high school English and French and former teacher-librarian in Peterborough, ON.
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