Ground Manners - A Novel
By Cynthia D’Errico
Xlibris, Soft Cover, 2011, $19.99; Hard Cover, 2011, $24.99
Available at: www.groundmannersnovel.com or on Amazon
Reviewed by Carol M. Upton
Learning that horses were butchered for meat left many people feeling raw and lied to, like suddenly finding out that your neighbour had barbecued your retriever or microwaved your cat. Like so many others, Yanne was clearly unaware that, whether for meat or other reasons, horses were slaughtered at all. ~ Part Three, Chapter Four, p. 116
Ground Manners. A Novel is an innovative synthesis of adventure, romance and animal advocacy. Cynthia D’Errico has produced a compelling tale based on true stories about Canada’s horse slaughter industry, the dangers of continuing to ignore coastline erosion, and which features an especially intriguing thread on how le Canadien became both Quebec’s heritage breed and the National Horse of Canada.
Through the thoughts of Ausencia, a slaughter-bound polo horse, the opening pages introduce us to the horse refuge run by animal communicator Skye Spahro and her daughter on Isle-Saint-Jean- Baptiste. The Institute of Nature Communications, like many horse rescues across the country, is dedicated to the care and rehoming of abused horses, including the rescue of those slated for slaughter.
The horses narrate a good part of the story as D’Errico performs skillful shifts from the human to the animal point of view. These shifts are reminiscent of those in other classics like Babe and Black Beauty, with that same brilliant seamlessness that keeps the reader fully engaged. The character of each horse is carefully delineated so that when Ulric, the eternally calm Belgian draft says: “I don’t like the look of things, Tessa,” his ominous tone ushers the reader into the darkness of the book’s last half.
The themes in this book require the reader to confront the moral dilemmas often present in horse ownership and attempt to expand the reader’s vision of horses. Yet the darkness is never overdone. The storyline is simultaneously about love, heroes and hope for lasting change in our treatment of animals and the planet – indeed of the very ground we walk on.
D’Errico’s writing style intimately involves readers in the lives of her characters, human and animal, in such a way that their world becomes difficult to leave as the book nears its gripping finale.
Ground Manners is the tale that horse lovers have waited for, but also essential reading for anyone intent on creating a more harmonious relationship with our planet. It will definitely raise public consciousness and is sure to spark debate.
A former ESL teacher and business editor, Cynthia has always felt a special empathy toward horses with whom she was raised. She continues to promote animals’ rights to live in whatever is left of their natural environments free of human interference. Visit Cynthia at www.groundmannersnovel.com