Book review: Topanga Canyon: Fire Season by Barbara Bryan

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Publication Date: March 21, 2023

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-63988-728-6

List Price: $18.99 USD Trade Paperback

Page Count: 338

Audience: Adult

A teenager from Chicago tries to make sense of himself, his new environment, and his place in the world after getting exiled to his grandfather’s horse ranch in California in Bryan’s stellar coming of age novel. A city boy through and through, Matt is horrified at the prospect of living at his grandfather’s horse ranch in Topanga, California, after his alcoholic mother announces her plan to banish him there. Gradually, Matt begins to appreciate his new life at the ranch. When financial difficulties force his grandfather to lease out one of the barns to an unscrupulous horse trainer Robert Sinclair, Matt is shocked to witness the antiquated and brutal methods of training Sinclair uses on his Tennessee Walking Horses. Will he gather enough courage and expose Sinclair? Told in third-person omniscient narrative voice, the story is superbly told, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as the narrative slowly draws closer to revealing if Matt succeeds in exposing Sinclair’s brutal ways. Other themes, such as familial ties, friendship, truth, integrity, and Matt’s gradual realization that he really possesses the courage to face any impossible hurdle, add additional complexity to the main storyline. Bryan’s keen understanding of the human psyche combined with her lifetime experience of dealing with horses adds to the authenticity. Book clubs and discussion groups will want to take a look. Compulsively readable and brilliant.


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