5.0 out of 5 stars Chesca and the Spirit of Grace, March 27, 2014
Clare O'Beara (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Chesca and the Spirit of Grace (Paperback)
A girl, a horse and the magical Irish countryside; what more do you need for a great story? CHESCA AND THE SPIRIT OF GRACE grabs our affection immediately and whisks us off to Howth harbour on the east coast of Ireland, north of Dublin. Chesca O'Brien has learned to understand what her animal friends say - so much so, that she doesn't want human pals.
Malley the lead stallion is fond of Chesca but her dairy-farming father won't let the girl ride such a strong spirited horse. Chesca's favourite spot is "surrounded by old stone walls and steeped in history. An old ruin of a cottage... the fields and meadows all fell away to the cliffs and down to the beach, cove, village and harbour." The excellent scene-setting puts us in the mood for excitement. Chesca enjoys trick-riding on her mare Star but Malley is a superb storyteller. He tells the girl that he is descended from a horse owned by the pirate queen Grace O'Malley.
Life has hard realities. The O'Briens run pony-trekking and between costs, insurance and loans, the banker puts them on notice. This is clearly a matter for the adults; what could a girl of nearly twelve, who's away with the fairies half the time, possibly do to save her home? Then the unthinkable happens and Chesca's mother is taken ill, so that cultured, unfeeling Aunt Dena arrives, promptly kicking the dog which came to greet her and doubting that her sister ever had a manicure. How much worse can it get?
The contrasts are nicely placed - a sudden acrid smell of nail-polish remover in the farm kitchen, a farmer wearing a suit to visit the hospital. Chesca is made to feel guilty for getting her own way; seeing her venerable home from her aunt's point of view, she realises that yes it is old, draughty and hard to keep. But what does Dena mean about calling in pest control? Chesca and her pet mouse haven't a clue. "I bet she was dropped on her head as a baby," mutters the rebellious girl.
I laughed aloud and loved this story. Young adults, especially girls, will relate to Chesca and her need to save her home and family. She discovers that human friends are great to have in a pinch, and that people do strange things in difficult times. Courage counts for as much as inventiveness in Lara O'Brien's CHESCA AND THE SPIRIT OF GRACE. The author grew up at Howth Riding Stables and now lives in Martha's Vineyard. I also highly recommend her work for adults who want a break from the dreary economic news.