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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.

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24 Responses to “GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeely”

  1. Thomas McNeely Says:

    Dear Patricia,

    Thank you very much for this generous review. When you have a moment, would you mind letting me know where you got the information that Ghost Horse is an Amazon Editor’s Choice. I cannot confirm this information.
    Thank you again –
    Best, Tom

    patricia Reply:

    You are quite welcome – I must say that it took me several days of thinking about this book before I could decide about the story and what I was going to say about it.

    Gival Press sent me a whole folder of information to accompany the advance copy of the book and on the press release form is where the Amazon Editors Choice award is listed. Hope that helps?

    Thomas McNeely Reply:

    Thanks for the information, Patricia. And for your patience with the book. Best, Tom

    Patricia Reply:

    I hope it wins lots of awards

    I found I did not want this to be still true
    Patricia recently posted..US: A Novel ~David NichollsMy Profile

    Thomas McNeely Reply:

    Patricia –
    My apologies for asking you to go to this trouble, but would it be possible for you to post your excellent review of Ghost Horse on Goodreads?
    Best, Tom McNeely

    Patricia Reply:

    It is no trouble at all; I only do this when an author asks because somebody often takes down my reviews on Goodreads.

    I had to put it up 8 times for BREATHE – anyone can delete the review, or as what happened to one author I read, a group of folks made hateful comments and had not even read her book – the publishers stopped the publication and will maybe try again in 2 years…

    I will see what I can do..
    Patricia recently posted..CERTAINTY:An Historic Novel ~ Victor BevineMy Profile

    Thomas McNeely Reply:

    Thank you, Patricia! I also wanted to let you know that I am available to do a guest blog post, Q&A, etc. Thank you so much for your kind and generous support! Tom

    Thomas McNeely Reply:

    Hello, Patricia – Sorry to bother you again. Would you mind posting this review on Goodreads? I would appreciate it. Best, Tom
    Thomas McNeely recently posted..Kirkus ReviewsMy Profile

  2. Talon Says:

    What segregation! I guess there will always be forms of it in every town and city. The areas where the poor live, the rich neighborhoods. I guess we can’t escape the fact that our ability to buy certain things of certain monetary values establishes our places in society.

    Patricia Reply:

    This book is also about the treatment of women in the 70s and how a father abuses his son and nearly drives him crazy within the context of Texas and the 70s.

    It took me several days to figure out this story….and it was so depressing to see all the changes being removed from Texas by the extreme politics in the state and the hatred of women

    Nice to have you back… posting. Your current post is stunning

    Check out A Brief Moment in Weightlessness – I think you could put together a short story book as wonderful as this one
    Patricia recently posted..GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeelyMy Profile

    Talon Reply:

    Thank you, Patricia. I will definitely check out “A Brief Moment in Weightlessness”. I love short stories. :)

  3. Leila @ Readers' Oasis Says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful review. Indeed, the novel brings up so many interesting things about the class and racial tensions in the 70s–and yes, we still have a long way to go. I’ve read Ghost Horse for the TLC Tour as well, and I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts & participating in the tour later this month.

    Patricia Reply:

    It is so fun to read all the reviews on the tours. I can only work on checking out reviews one day a week now and that has cut down on my reading pleasure quite a bit.
    I will come over and read your review very soon.
    Thanks for dropping in and sharing I appreciate your comment
    Patricia recently posted..US: A Novel ~David NichollsMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I see your tour date is October 23 – I liked your spot and all the things I read there… today.

    I had to spend $12.99 for my copy of Burial Ground for my book group and you must have better connections for free books?

    I wondered how you got the icon for NetGalley Professional readers also….so much to learn and explore
    Patricia recently posted..US: A Novel ~David NichollsMy Profile

    Leila @ Readers' Oasis Reply:

    Hi Patricia–Yes, my date on the tour for Ghost Horse is tomorrow. I’m working on my review now!

    I don’t have lots of great connections for free books; I wish had more! I do use Netgalley–have you signed up there? They sent me the “professional reader” after I had downloaded a few books. I get quite a lot of my books through Netgalley, and I am soon going to start emailing publishers directly for the first time, to ask for specific ARCs. I know people recommend you have some blogging time under your belt, and I’ve only been at this about 6 months, so I hadn’t started that yet. I also use the library a lot; because I keep track of what new releases are coming out, I am often able to get myself first or second in the queue for new books.

  4. sara Says:

    Patricia — I loved your words, “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.”

    This book sounds like an excellent reminder of times we’d like to forget, but shouldn’t.

    On the other hand, anyone who can spend that many years writing a book is obviously connected to his story and I believe it’s story that deserved to be told.

    Patricia Reply:

    Yes this story needs to be told – the writing is amazing and I believe very personal
    Patricia recently posted..US: A Novel ~David NichollsMy Profile

  5. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    Wow, what a confusing time for a young boy like Buddy. I’m glad to see that this book brought so much emotion out for you.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    Patricia Reply:

    Heather J

    Great book – should be required reading for those who don’t know these things about our history…what a reminder
    Patricia recently posted..US: A Novel ~David NichollsMy Profile

  6. Sam Juliano Says:

    Again you have written with passion and insight, and have made me as a potential reader very interested in the subject and time period. And again you have attracted the writer of the book you are reviewing. What an utterly fabulous honor for you and a sterling validation of your work! So great to see Mr. McNeeley here. In any case I do plan on securing a copy of this. Keep up the excellent work!

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for your very kind words and I think you must read this book… amazing storytelling which is still coming true today..

    Hopefully we have improved, but understanding the horrible treatment of President Obama and Wendy Davis – makes me think we’re in a huge backlash and at least 20% of the country has never improved their thinking or managed to change.
    Patricia recently posted..US: A Novel ~David NichollsMy Profile

    Thomas McNeely Reply:

    Sam – Thanks so much for your thoughts, and I look forward to reading your comments on Ghost Horse. I had hoped that the novel might begin a conversation about these themes in our culture, and I am very interested in what you, Patricia, and other readers have to say. Best, Tom McNeely
    Thomas McNeely recently posted..Fuelled by FictionMy Profile

  7. Sam Juliano Says:

    Thomas: Thank you so much for responding to me here. I will be sure to put my thoughts down here for sure!!! I also hope we can get a discussion going too.

    Thomas McNeely Reply:

    Thanks, Sam! Looking forward to your thoughts! Tom