Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Switchback, by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Skipjack Publishing, ISBN 9781950637041, November 2019

I need to start by saying this book is set in 1976.

Patrick Flint is a doctor, practicing at a hospital in Buffalo, Wyoming. Having grown up in Texas, done his residency in Colorado, and then lived in Irving, Texas with his family, he is loving small town Wyoming and the easy access to the wilderness.

His wife, Susanne, would much rather be back in Irving, as long as Patrick and their two kids go with her.

Their boy, Perry, is not yet a teen and is still sweet and cooperative. Daughter Trish, though, is fifteen and very much being a teenager. Neither Trish nor Susanne is happy about the hunting trip Patrick has planned for all of them.

Patrick, Susanne, and Trish are all in their different ways feeling a lot of stress right now. Patrick also has a 70s-
common attitude that his wife and children should do what he tells them. He's planned a fun opportunity to get good exercise, and why are Susanne and Trish being so defiant?

Susanne is an adult, and when she puts her foot down and refuses to go, Patrick eventually has to accept it. Trish,on the other hand is a teenager and his daughter, and the fact that she has plans with some boy is ultimately not something that weighs in her favor with Susanne. Susanne also wants a break from the kids, anyway. After all, it's the 70s, her husband has a very good income, and she obviously is privileged to be doing full time child care.

What nobody is really keeping track of is that a patient of Patrick's who wasn't brought in soon enough and died of sepsis despite the efforts to save her, has a vindictive and violent family. In addition to her son, his cousin, and her son's son, she also has another son, half-brother to the other son, who has just broken out of prison and killed a guard in the process. He is also, it turns out, the smartest and most controlled of them, though just as bad. These people blame Patrick for the mother's death. They believe, in fact, that he killed their mother. And Patrick is going to pay.

What follows is an intermixture of family drama and, as the hours and days pass, the Flints in the wilderness realizing someone is after them, and Susanne at home, after a very nasty experience of her own, realizing Patrick and the kids aren't where they were expected to be and her growing conviction that something is wrong.

I think the plot and the characters are very well-developed here, with clear signs of future character growth. There is so much that I like here!

But in the later part of the book, a horse has an incident that results in a compound fracture in the right hind leg. This happens deep in the wilderness, well up the side of a mountain, and far enough in that they can only get in and out on horseback or on foot. Maybe on dirt bikes, but since horses can't ride dirt bikes, either, that wouldn't help either.

So we know what has to happen to the horse. Especially since Patrick does have a gun with him, and knows how to use it, and is a decent guy who wouldn't let a horse suffer unnecessarily.

And that doesn't happen. We are eventually assured that the horse has a really good chance of recovering fully enough for a happy life as a pasture pet.

No. Certainly not in 1976. Even now, with a lot more options for treating a horse's broken leg, it's still most likely to end in the horse being euthanized, because you just can't tell a horse to keep the weight off that broken leg. In 1976, the only hesitation a decent, pragmatic, and somewhat hard-nosed many like Patrick would have had, would be that his young son was with him. And then he'd explain to his son why it was necessary, and do the right thing.

There was a much lesser incident near the start of the book, that had me a bit on edge about this level of sheer ignorance of the reality of the horses that are pretty essential to the preferred pastimes of several of the characters. But I liked the story, and I kept reading--and we get a terribly injured horse who wouldn't survive now given the circumstances, and we're told that this horse is going to be fine.

No. I'm sorry. I can't tolerate that level of nonsense that you only have to watch the Triple Crown races every spring, to know you better at least do a quick google before sending your manuscript to publisher or the printer. When I see something that badly wrong, I wonder what else was wrong that I didn't catch because it's too far outside my area of knowledge.

Not recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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