Anton Disclafani’s debut novel is a deeply layered gaze into both the teenage mind of Thea Atwell and America as a country slipping into the stark emotional landscape of the Great Depression.
Following a mysterious family tragedy, Thea is sent away from her reclusive family home in rural Florida to the exclusive Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Both a camp and year-round school for the daughters of America’s elite, Yonahlossee provides the atmospheric backdrop to Thea’s reflection and self-discovery. Thea's story is filled with detailed historical descriptions, an expert eye for horsemanship and nuanced themes of sexuality, family and friendship - and the devastation that can come from mixing them.
The tenor of Disclafani storytelling leaves the reader slightly off balance (in a good way) as the tone gently slides between a thoughtful memoir and uneasy foreboding of a tragedy yet to be revealed. I was curious to discover the events that brought Thea - a kindhearted and family oriented girl,with a love of horsemanship, and a deeply rooted loyalty to home - to become a shamed and emotionally torn familial outcast.
With unhurried pacing that allows you to slowly put together the tragedy surrounding Thea’s denunciation and the subsequent deterioration of the Atwell family I highly recommend The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. If you enjoy this novel you may also like Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall and The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon.