A s we approach high summer, a lot of folks are still planning beach trips. Central for me for a satisfying visit to the sand and waves is a good reading list.
I love sitting on the deck of a familiar beach house in Wilmington, North Carolina, a prized find my extended family has rented for years. We’ve shared many a summer stay there, venturing to the beach in the afternoons and relaxing in the deepening shadows of the deck come evening.
It’s those stretches of the day when I can feel that the sun and sand have taken the constantly recirculating energy I use to power through my days at home and replaced it with a washed-out calm. Those are the times when it’s easiest for me to pick up a volume of someone else’s words and let them sink into my mind.
If you’re heading to the beach or the mountains this summer or even just planning a few days off at home, I hope you’re able to relax in that same way. I think it’s essential to unplug every now and then and change pace. If you’re packing for a trip, I encourage you to take time to throw in some entertaining reading material to help you complete the journey from real life to vacation, and that process might include downloading books to your device or throwing some of the old-fashioned kind into your suitcase.
I always love running across a well-written novel about horses, and even though most of you aren’t equestrians, I enjoy passing along a reading suggestion that promises a quality glimpse into the horse world. “The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls” by Anton DiSclafani is one such story. Here’s a short synopsis.
Thea Atwell’s life seems to have done an about face when she is hustled furtively away from her family’s well-appointed Florida home to a remote boarding school for girls in North Carolina. The truth is that Thea’s life has been in silent turmoil for some time, and she is forced to reorganize her views and associations at the tender age of 15. Meanwhile, the nation itself is undergoing an involuntary metamorphosis as the Great Depression looms.
The one constant in Thea’s life seems to be horses. Riders will relate to author Anton DiSclafani’s descriptions of Thea’s schooling sessions aboard her pony, Sasi, at home in Florida. The family lives a secluded life, and Thea rides virtually every day, following a training program mostly of her own invention. She finds that, true to its name, Camp Yonahlossee places horses centrally in its curriculum, and she works on improving her equitation and jumping skills on her assigned school horse all year.
Meanwhile, DiSclafani slowly unravels the mystery of why Atwell is essentially estranged from her family, including her beloved twin brother, keeping the pages turning with a very creative subplot. All of this occurs against the backdrop of well-to-do families teetering on the edge of financial ruin, the evidence of which we see in the sacrifices Thea’s classmates must begin making.
Elegant party dresses begin to be worn twice, whispers of crumbling fortunes grow increasingly louder, and one of the school’s top riders faces leaving the school permanently at the end of the year without her beloved (and valuable) jumper. The school will apparently retain him as collateral for missed tuition payments. It seems a horse-centric boarding school is a luxury in any era.
Riders will be able to relate to Thea’s immediate acclimation to the Camp Yonahlossee lesson program despite an unsettling exit from the bosom of her family. What rider with any sort of competitive streak wouldn’t immediately jump into this sort of situation bent on winning the prestigious end-of-the-year show?
According to DiSclafani’s website, antondisclafani.com, she grew up in Northern Florida and attended Emory University. She draws skillfully on her own Southern background, and the settings feel authentic. The site also lets on that she has an extensive riding background. Her descriptions of riding clothes of the era are particularly interesting, and she throws in plenty of Thea’s private reflections on her affinity for equines, making for a refreshing take on the mystery of why some of us simply love horses.
I read this book a few years back on vacation listening to the gulls wheel above and the high-tide waves break on the beach. If you choose to embark on the trip this story promises for the reader,
I’d love to hear your thoughts about it and also a little about the place where you decided to read it. Happy summer reading!