I love animals. I had a rabbit and some goldfish earlier, and now I have a dog. I find animals to be great companions, and such a comfort when you are down. So, when Lisa at TLC Book Tours asked me if I could review Lynne Hugo’s Remember My Beauties, a short but intense novel about a horse-loving family set in Kentucky, I jumped at it. Thanks, as always, to Lisa for giving me this book!
Remember My Beauties is about family, the mess and the joy that it is. Well, here it’s mostly a mess when the book begins. Jewel lives with Eddie, her second husband. Carley, her daughter from her first marriage is on drugs and living with another drug addict. Chassie, Eddie’s daughter from his marriage, comes and goes as she pleases ignoring their disapproval about her skimpily clad self, and Cal, Jewel’s errant brother has returned after disappearing for seven years. This is the typical eccentric, mixed up family that greets us when we open the book. Then there is Hack and Louetta, Jewel’s aged and infirm parents, who still live on their family horse farm. Jewel’s heart is with her horses. She takes care of them as lovingly as she does her parents. We all have a Jewel, Eddie, Carley and the others in our families. Maybe not in exactly the same way. But you know, that brilliant cousin who left his cushy job to follow the ways of a cult or that sad aunt who has arthritis and is grumpy most of the time. Closer home, am sure many of us can point out husbands, mothers or brothers who don’t express enough, don’t do enough, or are just different. They are not bad people at all. They are just dysfunctional at different levels, and this takes a toll on the person who thinks he/she is ‘normal.’ I put that word in quotes because defining that is a whole new story. I found Jewel’s words very profound –
“I was right when I said that nothing was what it seemed, I was wrong when I thought I knew what it really was instead.”
Jewel appears to be the sanest of the lot initially but as the book moves forward we see a lot more sides to her. She is more a person who is worn down by the cares of living and is unable to cope with her present. Eddie, on the other hand, comes across as a relatively mild-mannered person who doesn’t want to confront situations. It’s not very clear as to how Carley became the way she is but we do know that she used to be a sweet little child who loved her horses and had a way with them. Things change quite quickly when Cal returns. “Somehow the choice in my life just made themselves, dragging me along behind them,” says Jewel, and that’s more or less what happens later on to everyone.
And where are the horses? They speak to us in their voices a few times here and there and we see the tremendous comfort they provide to Jewel, Hack, and Carley. That was really heartwarming and I could really identify with it. Hugo writes unhurriedly with a flair for putting down difficult emotions and nostalgia in words.
“I wanted to cradle her the way I used to when problems required a Band-Aid and a Popsicle, when fun was blowing dandelion fluff around a melon sunset, making firefly lanterns, and driving into town for ice cream.”
I am sure that will resonate with a lot of parents in different ways when their children cease to be children anymore and even the smallest problem is somehow complex and unfathomable. And what when parents grow older and it’s the children’s turn to take care of them?
“That’s the point. I haven’t gotten to live mine. I’ve been taking care of people, including the two of you. Or haven’t you noticed I’m here twice a day?”
Jewel’s anguish and hurt are palpable. I love the way Hugo shows both sides of the parent-child coin through these characters.
Probably the only aspect I would question is how the one incident towards the end of the novel sets in motion some of the things in the right direction, so quickly. For people who have been the way they are for such a long time, it’s not that easy to change. Or maybe it is. After all, nothing is what it seems.
Verdict: A short but thoughtful read
Image courtesy lynnehugo.com