Metal Horses
by Ron Allen Ames
VBW Publishing

"Green! Tires squealed as motors roared. Jay's car jumped ahead as the mouth burned rubber at the light. By the time Jay power-shifted second gear, his opponent was already gaining on him."

Every decade has images of events and cultural changes that help define it in our memories. The fifties had greasers and the birth of rock'n'roll; the sixties saw the emergence of hippies and man's first step on the moon; the seventies witnessed the long-awaited end to the Vietnam War and muscle cars. The latter began to fade away as gas prices ballooned, but in its heyday a souped-up engine with plenty of shiny chrome and a tricked-out body was the chariot of street warriors. Ames expertly recalls the days when having a fast car was perceived as an important mark of manhood.

Jason Ruder has no idea what secrets he is about to unlock when he asks about buying an old muscle car from Ruth Jensen, a reclusive woman in her late fifties. What he learns, though, as the older woman begins her tale of the car and his parents, will change his perceptions about not only that time but also everything he has ever believed about his family. Ruth's story brings the seventies back in rich and believable detail as she relates the loves, losses, and lifestyle of her young adult contemporaries as they cope with the looming threat of the draft, social and cultural barriers, and the search for a life partner.

Capturing the angst of American youth as brilliantly as S.E. Hinton did in The Outsiders, Ames faithfully recreates the mood, music, and cultural turbulence that so marked the early seventies. The humor and insights into the Amish brought by her character, Eze, give the novel an added richness often lacking in similar stories about the time period. In other words, this is one for your short list of books to read this year.

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