The Pretty Horses
by Laurie Davidson
Trafford Publishing

"Don't tell anybody that she hit you. Just say you fell and bumped your head."

Third-grade student Morven lives in a world of fear. He fears his drug-addicted and alcoholic mother, who periodically beats him with a coat hanger. He fears an addled old man down the street. He fears falling prey to bullies at school. He fears not finding sterilized bottles with which to feed his baby sister. Most of all he fears that Social Services will discover his squalid home life and break up his family. Morven's struggles to keep his family together are the foundation of this story. The imaginary horses of the title represent the desire for something better-the universal hope that one day things will improve.

Davidson is a good writer, and it's obvious that she knows the world of the down-trodden and the ever-present threat that Social Services represents. Situations are portrayed with clarity and realism. The book is a good read. What keeps it from being a great read are two things: The first is that it is an unrelenting story of despair with no character growth or change. The author seems to be saying that characters trapped in this life are trapped forever, with any improvement only temporary. The second is that the characters are presented with no back story. For instance, Seamus (the old man) was once a big deal, who kissed the Queen of England, but now he's not: Why? A boy named Thane is trying to help Seamus while other kids torment him: Why? These character questions nag and distract the reader throughout the course of the book.

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