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Leaping Man Hill [Paperback]

Carol Emshwiller
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Revisiting California's Owens Valley and the Ledoyt family in 1915, Emshwiller (Ledoyt) elucidates the grim realities of her characters' lives with poetic tenderness. In spare but animated prose, she illuminates the healing power of love in the story of narrator Mary Catherine, who has come to the Ledoyts' farm after a harrowing childhood spent with a series of abusive stepfathers and a self-centered mother. Plainspoken Mary Catherine has been hired to teach Abel, the fatherless, nine-year-old boy who has never learned (or perhaps never wanted) to speak, but communicates in mischievous ways. His mother, Oriana, has lost touch with reality, living in the past when her husband was alive. Abel's older sister, Charlotte, cruelly burdened with the responsibility of running the family farm, has also suffered loss in the death of her dream of being an artist, while Abel's brother Fay and cousin Henny are angry, violent and brooding. Henny is bitter and self-loathing after losing his arm in battle, and though Mary is first attracted to Fay, she falls in love with the withdrawn Henny. Their romance is riddled with obstacles, mainly because Henny has lost the desire to be a part of society. Mary Catherine's evolution is touching; initially a frightened hired girl who believes that "everything I've ever hoped was too much to hope for," she becomes an integral part of the Ledoyt family. Under her care, Abel discovers speech, and Henny confronts his own fears when he fights for her love. Emshwiller borrows elements of traditional romance, but layers her plot with dimensional characters whose emotional depth and yearnings are explored in alternating viewpoints and distinctive voices. Permeated with Western atmosphere and studded with small surprises, this is both a heartfelt family drama and a tender love story that marks Emshwiller as a writer of distinctive talent. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Here Emshwiller ostensibly continues the story of the Ladd family, begun in Ledoyt. However, this sequel concentrates on the experiences of Mary Catherine, who has come to the Ledoyt ranch to tutor the mute child Abel. Those familiar with Ledoyt are reintroduced to Charlotte and her mother, brother Abel, and half brother Fay. As the book opens, Mary Catherine focuses her attention on coaxing Abel to speak. However, soon after meeting cousin Henny, who was wounded in World War I, Mary Catherine must struggle to avoid suffering from unrequited love. Emshwiller employs narrative shifts among the characters just as successfully as she did in the first Ledoyt novel. Her portrayal of the Western landscape is keen and vivid and her dialog robust yet sensitive. Recommended for all libraries.AFaye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Another strong, satisfying western from former fantasy-writer Emshwiller, and a sequel to Ledoyt (1995): a headstrong young heroine succeeds in finding her niche in the ranch country of post-WWI California. When Mary Catherine comes to the farm that Charlotte (Lotti from the previous story) is barely keeping afloat with the help of her shy younger brother Fay, in order to home-school the youngest boy, Abel, a tree-climbing imp who has never spoken, she's little more than a skittish girl herself. Her own abusive childhood having taken a turn for the better when a kindly teacher took her in, this is Mary Catherines first taste of freedom, and with a tricky combination of harsh discipline and a generous heart, she tackles the challenge that Abel represents. With Abel responding in his own, nonverbal way, Mary Catherine sets her sights on other tasks. Then, while rebuilding a dam, she meets Henny, Charlotte's only male cousin from the adjoining ranch, who lost his arm and his grip on reality in France during the war. With no encouragement whatsoever from him, she falls in love and pursues him recklessly, visiting the shack where he's recovering from yet another fight he picked to lose, watching over him as he has a fit that puts him in the hospital, and finally, after being frank with him in a way that no one else is about his attitude, allowing him to coldly take her virginity. During all of this there are other crises affecting Mary Catherine's position: Fay runs away (from her), and his mother dies while searching for him, Abel at her side. But when Mary Catherine becomes pregnant and Henny disappears without knowing he's the father, she has to live with the worst kind of torment: knowing that she'll have the child of the man she loves but that she might not have him. An exuberantyet exquisiteportrait of a woman coming into her own. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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