Since apparently I’m becoming the go to blogger for Equine Fiction (don’t get me wrong, I love it! Horses + Reading? Can’t get better than that), I wanted to share with you one of my very favorite equine focused novels that I can almost guarantee you’ve never read. You know how I know that? It’s long since been out of print and, unless you type the name in perfectly, it’s hard to even find on Amazon.com.
The magic book? Sun Dust Devil Horse by Eva Zumwalt.
I got my copy of Sun Dust at a neighbor’s moving away garage sale. I didn’t want it. I didn’t pick it out. I was about ten and even though I loved horses and reading, I did not like being told what to read. Plus, that ratty little book with a western horse and rider on the front? So not interested. But I was buying a few other trinkets so the neighbor gave me the book anyway. Clearly they just wanted to get rid of everything they could.
So I brought the book home, tossed it on the bookshelf and forgot about it for a few years. This was, apparently, a bad habit of mine as I also decided I didn’t want to read Ashleigh’s Wonder when my parents got it for me for my birthday as well. Well, like Wonder, I eventually decided I should just read it and wound up falling in love.
Sun Dust is at heart a coming of age story about a girl named Laurie Campbell. After being in a car accident that has left her with a permanent limp, Laurie and her mother move from Washington D.C. to her grandparent’s quarter horse ranch in New Mexico. Laurie is incredibly self-conscious about her limp and feels out of place in this horse world that is so different from the city life she knows. Luckily, she is befriended by one of her grandfather’s ranch hands, Dave Elliot, and his sister who take Laurie under their wing.
Laurie’s grandfather desperately wants to make Laurie feel at home and fall in love with the ranch so he offers her a horse, any horse she wants on the ranch. Laurie is not having any of it. She doesn’t want to learn how to ride because of her limp so she tries to beat her grandfather at his own game and picks the most unruly horse in the heard; the one no one wants to deal with, the one whose dam had to be put down due to her viciousness, the unbroke filly Sun Dust.
This could have quickly turned into a special-bond-between-Laurie-and-Sun-Dust-overcomes-everything but truthfully Dave spends a lot of time breaking Sun Dust and getting her ready for Laurie to ride. This happens mostly in the background because the author’s real focus is on Laurie and her journey from a girl who just wants to fade into the shadows and the confident young woman who isn’t afraid to stand out and get back on her crazy horse.
Written in the vein of The Black Stallion series, Sun Dust Devil Horse really appealed to me as a young girl who found my only comfort and confidence on the back of a horse. It’s got barrel racing, romance, mean girls that get put in their places, and beautiful horses. What is there not to love? So next time you’re in a used bookstore, take a look for Sun Dust Devil Horse. You will not regret it.