This first novel has many of the best qualities of a good memoir. It's readable in two ways-- generous margins and type size, plus a fast-paced narrative that's hard to put down. Even if you don't ride horses, you will enjoy the sensations of sitting higher, moving faster, and leaping over things with ease-- and with a bit of risk. Socially, Simon's horses help him raise his kids, gather with like minded friends, and court a new woman.
We learn in flashback that Simon is an orphan, left in a cardboard box on the doorstep of a nunnery in Canada. Sister Elizabeth, his early mentor, is really the most important woman in his life. His early life ranges from Toronto to Hudson's Bay, Detroit to New Mexico. As a boy Simon gets beaten up a few times, then enjoys a few liaisons before marriage. He grows up to be a college professor in Memphis, teaching French and keeping horses. He loves horses and women. If your book group includes both women and men, you will find no shortage of things to talk about.
When his wife Ellen wants him out of the house, he becomes a single father caring for two boys and a girl. The anguish of a sudden divorce is rendered in convincing emotional detail, and so is Simon's loneliness that follows. He meets Sybil, a younger woman of a different race, at a Catholic bible study group he is leading in the midtown home of a friend. And then. . . .
SIMON PHILIPE is a literary novel-- no formulas, no detectives or murders-- but a vivid evocation of a time and place as a very human story unfolds. Recommended especially for Southern progressive church folks; a must read for Memphians and horse lovers. You'll be glad you read it, and you'll tell your friends.