Old Hickory Lane by E.J. Ruek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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Warren Jeffreys wants to be a premiere veterinarian on the horse show circuit. He certainly has the education (multiple degrees) and a special connection with the horses he loves (not to mention the cows, pigs, goats, and mules), but he's got a prickly personality. Who'd care, you think? The top horse breeders are a snooty bunch and want to be catered to by their vet. Warren is not a people person.
Ms. Ruek's sometimes frightening, sometimes humorous story of the aspiring veterinarian is an engrossing read. Not all warm and fuzzy like "All Things Great and Small," it still has elements to tug at your heart strings. You can't help but wish Warren success, but you also want to slap him upside the head to knock the chip off his shoulder. If he was totally likable, I don't think the story would be near as compelling. The characters, the situations, the details of day-to-day veterinary work will keep you glued to the page. I would have read it all in one session, but for the book's substantial size. You definitely get your money's worth.
More about the story with spoilers:
Before Warren can realize his dream, he's got to get the all-important work credits. He joins a veterinary clinic in Idaho to gain the all-important experience. Just a couple of years, he thinks.
Unfortunately for Warren, his personality along with being an "Injun" is a prejudiced and tight-knit area, he is scorned and even ripped off by a rotten slumlord. Forced to live in a hobo camp until he can earn enough to afford an apartment, he has to hide so nobody will know his poor circumstances. To the rich horsey set, it'd never do for their vet to be anything but prosperous...and white.
Along the way, he finds himself falling for Elise, whose grandmother raises a rare breed of horse which fascinates Warren. He wants both the woman and the job. Elise likes him, so that's not a problem, but her grandmother keeps pushing him away from having a relationship with the young woman. Prejudice or something more?
Slowly, Warren gains the trust of the farmers and ranchers in the area. His bosses at the Lewis and Clark Clinic see his skill and the something extra Warren adds when he treats animals. A skill or magic? Warren doesn't even know for sure, only that his Cree grandmother taught him ways to feel an animal's emotional state and even tell him what their problem is. Not in words, but in a metaphysical connection to the animal that allows him see and understand more than any normal human.
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