GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeely
“’Divorce,’ she said, “is a disease caused by the lies of feminism and secular humanism.’” (Catholic school teacher’s words to middle school boys; early pages of uncorrected, advanced copy)
GHOST HORSE is a book I found hard to read and yet very worthwhile. It came in the loveliest package, with a folder full of publicity material and extra resources. The font was precise and extremely small on my review advanced copy and there were no page numbers. I thought it was a young adult book, now I know this book needs discussion because there is a surface story and then the recording of societal change which is impacting our current lives with tremendous relevance.
Buddy is a 12 year old boy who is being torn apart with the normal feelings of the changes in a boy’s life, by his Catholic education, by his physician father’s return after 12 years of being away, by his sparing, controlling grandmothers, and by the transitions the USA was making in the turbulent 1970s. He can see how hard his mother is working and how smart she is and well trained as she runs a pathology lab and teaches. Margot supports her own mother and is buying a house for her. There is not adequate childcare or transportation for her son and she must work extremely long hours because her pay is not equal to men’s income. Dad wants a divorce and custody of Buddy, Jimmy is a physician wanting a huge, fancy house and he runs his own cancer/pathology lab.
GHOST HORSE is about a time when the folks in Houston, Texas were just exploring big changes in expectations and culture and yet it is a place where one could delineate the classes and futures clearly. The Mexicans lived in one area, the whites another, the wealthy even another location and the Negroes had their own place on this earth. There were even more categories such as conservative Christians and trailer trash; people spoke one way at home and the well-educated spoke another way in public. The Priests and teachers were eager to spread the message of anti- change, violence and hate. How is a boy to find himself and figure out who he is and what his true relationships are; Buddy becomes extremely confused trying to make sense of who he is and what he needs to do?
Thomas H. McNeely is a writer and a professor and he grew up in Houston during this time of turmoil. It took him 14 years to write GHOST HORSE. The boy’s confusion comes right off the page and into the mind with the concise puncture of incredible words and feelings exquisitely placed on the page. Racism, sexism, homophobia, fundamentalism, bigotry, economic inequality, hatred and violence coming at Buddy at every moment of this boy’s day haunting him like the GHOST HORSE – where is the escape? Would it be in making a movie about the GHOST HORSE with your Mexican friend?
TLC Book Tours and Gival Press sent me an advanced copy to review of GHOST HORSE. The story pushed a great many personal feelings to the surface for me. I was back working at as an Adult Educator in the South and thinking about all the threats I received and how angry people were and how many refused to even acknowledge the problems – how quick to blame and hold on to their perceived values. Paula Dean, the southern chef, reminded me last year when she said, “we used the ‘N’ word at home all the time”; she was ostracized. Our feelings are just masked now and we can see the backlash to change with the election of President Obama. Baby! We have not come a long way. We need these reveals and yet we cower like a 12 year old boy and keep it to ourselves until we find a point of outrage and release.
Thomas H. McNeely is a very interesting person and the winner of numerous awards. GHOST HORSE has been nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has won the Editor’s Choice award at Amazon.
Tags: 1970s, anger, bigotry, Catholic schools, confusion, divorce, economic injustice, fundamentalism, GHOST HORSE, Gival Press Novel Award, hate, Houston, language, neighborhoods, Pulitzer Prize Nomination, racism, sexism, Texas, Thomas H. McNeely, Violence