A Cowgirl in Search of a Horse
by Alice Winston Carney

Hermit's Peak Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-615-34548-2.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 01/17/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir

If your childhood included movie matinees of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, you will likely enjoy the details of the 1950's in this book. The author carefully selects snippets of the period that trigger our own indelible memories. Aromas are evoked as she remembers bubble baths and the powdery smell of Cashmere Bouquet.

In this collection of stories, A Cowgirl in Search of a Horse, Alice Winston Carney blends just the right amount of realism with childhood wonder, as we listen to the voice of a young girl acquaint us with simpler times growing up in a small town out west.

She paints vivid images of family, including her big brother two years older than she. I could imagine her on her swing in the yard, singing, "Happy trails to you..." Alice turns ordinary moments of youth into joyful recollections. In one chapter, she shifts to a mother's perspective for just a bit while she tells her own daughter a story about an early experience in elementary school. We then get to know four generations of her family. Written in language for young readers age 8 and up, this book is appropriate to share with your own daughter.

Not only does the author's reminiscing set off Technicolor visions of the era, she mixes in a smattering of southwestern culture. Her love for her home in New Mexico is threaded through her account of the circus arriving by rail to Las Vegas and the story of how she first learned of the Hispanic folk legend of La Llorona. Though smack dab in the middle of New Mexico's horse county, Alice's family lives in a neighborhood in town. Her dream-come-true of having her own horse to ride eludes her in this story.

In the end, a life's stories are told from age 6 to beyond with brevity and a magical cast. I felt immersed in her past, sharing milestones of her personal history as though they were my own. Her writing presents a believable voice from earlier times. She shows us that indeed, she is..."the girl who had discovered that words were color and color warmed everything under the sun." This little book was a delight to read and to hold, from the sepia-tone photos to the cover flaps that can be used like a bookmark. A compact 100 pages makes this a treat to reread and savor again!

Alice Winston Carney is an author who earned her BA in English and Journalism from Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. She still has roots in the mountainous region of northern New Mexico, near her family home in Las Vegas. She is affiliated with Hermit's Peak Press in Sacramento and Green River Writer workshops.

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