Perhaps it was because of having four daughters and going through the turbulent teenage years that made this story resonate with me. Perhaps it as because I had liked My Dark Vanessa, where the author so well understood a teenage girl’s fragility. This well written saga, allowed the reader to climb into the mind and soul of its young protagonist as well as the blackened soul of her father. It is one that comes with a caution because it presents a very dark side to the world we inhabit.
Roan Montgomery seems to have it all. She is equestrian champion probably headed to the Olympics following in her father’s footsteps, slated to become something. She is loved by her father, the only love she has known since she was four years old, for her father is a predator, a molester, a vile monster who preys on his daughter psychologically and sexually.
He controls every aspect of her life, she is guarded, protected from the outside world kept in a literal cage by a man who takes her whenever he wants. She is trapped in a world that is frightening and ever so afraid to tell someone what is happening. Her mother has left the marriage, another extremely flawed character who only loves and cares for herself, and even though she is aware of her husband’s perversion, she leaves Roan to her father’s devices.
Her father, Monty, is a highly decorated former Olympian, wealthy, handsome, charismatic, and despicable. He is a predator snake who twists and turns on Roan leaving her off balanced and always anxious to do what he desires. She satisfies him sexually because that is what she knows. Even given opportunities to tell the immoral and repulsive things that go on, Roan shies away in fear, a fear deeply ingrained in her as she witnesses her father’s cruelty. She is trapped in a world that seems to offer her no escape.
In all of this there is a bright spot and that is the love Roan has for her horses, especially for one, but here is another level of control her father exerts. He is her coach and doesn’t let her have an inch of personal space. In school, on a special schedule, she is attracted to Will Howard and he to her. She doesn’t know how one proceeds in a normal relationship so this one becomes sexual quickly, for poor Roan knows little else. She is so afraid of telling Will her heinous story and as they develop more feelings towards one another, her vile father sees to it that they have little to no contact. He watches her like a hawk and when tragedy comes to her when her beloved horse dies, she finds the courage to stand up see herself in the mirror of life as she is, a brave, courageous young women.
What makes this story excellent is the keen understanding the author, Susan Mihalic, brings to its telling. She well portrays the dependency young people often place on their parents, coaches, teachers etc., the intricate way in which an adolescent’s mind works, and the power of control that can be exerted covering up contemptible behavior. I know some will find this story repulsive (as I did in My Absolute Darling), but the story, this story, does shine a positive light on resiliency and taking steps to become a better person, developing trust, knowing there are people who care and a life worth living where one can hold their head up for being human.
A definite recommendation for this new author’s story, with a warning that there are some disturbing sexual scenes.
and here’s the author:
Susan Mihalic has worked as a book editor, curriculum writer, writing instructor, and freelance writer and editor. She has also taught therapeutic horseback riding. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and now lives in Taos, New Mexico.