The Longest Trail by Roni McFadden. Review by Ally Brady on behalf of Love Books Group
This is the book the world needs right now. If you love horses, this is the book for you.
If you do not like horses, this is still the book for you.
This is a real-life account of the author, Roni’s escape from a troubled young childhood towards finding her love for horses working as a local ranch hand. We see her grow from a wild child to a hardworking, dedicated, and gifted horse handler whose relationship with horses and the people around her is precious and humbling.
Her responsibilities progress until we see her living a solitary existence in the mountains caring for the horse packs during out of season time. This is where we really learn who Roni is and what makes the desert and high canyons such a special place.
Reading this memoir, instilled a feeling of sitting around a campfire in the middle of nowhere, feeling serene and content. The descriptive narrative is what makes this book unputdownable. You can almost feel the heat from the log burner in the cabin and hear the crickets and the sounds of the night-time desert. This is exactly the backdrop to the telling of the story, whereby Roni, sits with her grandchildren leaning over a campfire and tells them nighttime stories of her life in the outback.
This is much more than a history of horse care in the outback (which is interesting in itself), it’s about kindred spirits between animal and human, about coming of age and learning to grow in confidence and to find out who you are and where you belong.
There are two main storylines running through the book. One as described above and then the one where Roni takes off on her own excursions whilst sitting out the long winter and autumn days alone in the mountains in the LA outback. Here Roni’s spiritual connections with the Ancients and The Grandfathers of the times gone by are told through her dreams and are a complete story unto their own. Entwined in mythology and history and archaeology her real lived experiences of learning the ways of these old Indians and their customs and respect for mother earth is not only engaging but heart-warming
Both narratives left me with a fuzzy, warm feeling of peace and gratitude towards nature. I cannot recommend this beautiful memoir enough. It is a beautiful and poignant account of one girl’s strength and growth through her love of animals and nature. This book is both grounding and intriguing and feels like “coming home”.
Back of the Book
At 14 years old, Roni McFadden was already headed for trouble. When her mother divorced Roni’s abusive step-father, whatever closeness existed between mother and daughter disappeared. The only thing that Roni had left in her life with any meaning was her little horse Sparol.
When she met an old cowboy who lived down the road, she saw they shared the same love and respect for those magnificent animals. More importantly, that old cowboy was an adult she could trust. Under his guidance, Roni evolves from a girl stumbling along treacherous and twisted paths to become a strong young woman who knows where she is going, how to get there, and that she will have help along the way.