Jarret, an enslaved Black boy in the South, may be small, but he knows his horses and he knows how their lineage matters. This is what his father has taught him and what he recites with him each night as they sit on their porch on warm, Southern nights. When Jarret witnesses the birth of his newest beauty, Darley, he and the horse form a bond that will last for decades.
Fast forward to 2019, and we meet Jess, who has found herself working at the Smithsonian, far from her home in Australia. From a young age, Jess has been fascinated with the bone structures of animals, and she is now working to prepare them for analysis and study at one of the world’s most venerable American institutions. It is here where her path crosses with Theo, an art history graduate student at Georgetown, writing his thesis and researching articles for a magazine for the same institution. When their research brings them together, they find that there is more that they share than their interest in a horse that lived a very long time ago.
This is one of those novels that you yearn to keep reading to know what will happen, but you also don’t want to keep reading because you don’t want it to end.
There is so much that has been packed into this extensively-researched novel that there is so much to unpack. First, I learned so much about horses and horse racing. Not familiar with this world, I learned about the breeding of the horses, how their treatment and mistreatment has evolved, and how important their anatomy is to how effectively they can race. There is a love of animals that is expressed throughout this novel that I share quite deeply.
The story also depicts racism, as it existed during the 1800’s, when slavery was still legal in this country, and as it still very much exists today. We see how Jarret is treated as an enslaved young man, which varies depending on who has ownership of him (and what they believe they can get from him). We cannot help but compare him to how Theo, our graduate student at Georgetown, is treated in current day, where he experiences almost daily comments, micro-aggressions (which are often not very “micro” at all). Both men are highly intelligent, experts in their fields, and are respected – but over and over again, encounter obstacles purely because of the color of their skin.
But don’t be fooled – the learning is all so easy. It comes through a beautiful story, with beloved characters and a heartfelt and moving plot. And even if you’ve never been on a horse or never watched one race, you will fall in love with Lexington (nee Darley)!
This is 100% a MUST READ! Loved it!