House Rules

Heather Lewis, Author
Heather Lewis, Author Nan A. Talese $21.95 (321p) ISBN 978-0-385-47210-4
Paperback - 321 pages - 978-1-85242-413-8
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-1-85242-461-9
Paperback - 978-0-7493-9584-1
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The narrator of Lewis's impressive first novel is 15-year-old Lee, whose story is both a fascinating and repelling look at the dark side of show-horse riding. Lee is kicked out of school for possessing marijuana, a minor offense compared with her other habits: pill-popping, heavy drinking and anonymous sex with men her father's age. Returning home is no option, since her father sexually abuses her, with her mother's connivance. So Lee runs away to Florida, where she finds work riding in horse shows. But she seems compelled to seek out destructive sexual relationships, first with a female rider, Tory, and then with Tory's former lover, Linda, a veterinarian who dopes up both horses and their riders. When Lee starts riding for Linda and Tory's boss, a sadistic voyeur who manages a stable, her descent into a hell of drugs and violent sex accelerates (she becomes addicted to heroin and describes Linda going at her until ``she'd torn me up inside''). The immorality and cruelty of this sordid world, as well as the repetitious drug and sex scenes, may numb readers. Moreover, Lewis is so adept at creating the voice and thoughts of a 15-year-old that Lee's lack of understanding and unwillingness to see the truth about her self-destructiveness becomes exasperating. Even so, this powerful portrayal of the steamy underside of a seemingly respectable world is hard to put down, particularly the compelling passages capturing Lee's thoughts while riding. Be warned, howerver: the story horrifies even as it absorbs. (Apr.)
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