Intriguing characters: Sketches from the Spanish Mustang by @bxwretlind #review

Sketches from the Spanish Mustang

Written by Benjamin X. Wretlind

Genre: General Fiction

Book Synopsis

A jilted husband with a grudge, a bomb, and a dead wife; three mothers facing life and death; a warrior in a battle with his memory; a man at odds with the stereotypes surrounding him; an immigrant looking for fortune in the wrong places; and a woman who can't stop running for her life. These are the subjects of a woman with a gift, a woman who has already lost everything. Through her art, she hopes to see them all through different eyes while serving penance among the denizens of a town once dead.

An artist sits at a table in a casino in Cripple Creek, Colorado. She is broken, alone, and she is waiting. She's waiting for redemption, waiting for a chance to prove she can really see through someone else's eyes. And as she waits, she sketches those around her, those who keep their secrets buried deep. It's not simply something she wants to do; it's something she has to do, and it might just save a life.

While all people have secrets, the artist quickly learns that some of them are every bit as dark as her own. There is the immigrant looking for fortune and finding death along the way. There is the woman running for her life, desperate to hide in a small town that is, for its own sake, trying to live again. There is the angry man, jilted by his now-dead wife, looking for revenge. There is the veteran who can't remember, the woman about to lose her mother, and the drunk who doesn't want to be what people see on the outside. There are more people, everywhere, behind every turn of the card, and all of them have secrets.

Sketches from the Spanish Mustang weaves each person's story--both intriguing and magical--into a single narrative about love, death, penance and peace. As the mystery of the woman's sketches unfolds, the lives of her subjects unravel with it. This is the artist's gift: to uncover the hidden in life. Yet gifts can be curses, and curses can be secrets. For the artist, remembering is penance. Through the eyes of the woman who is forced to spend her life attempting to correct her own misguided view of those around her, the reader is given an opportunity to see more than the vagrant, more than the alcoholic, more than the immigrant or the woman running from her past. The novel breaks down stereotypes and allows the reader to peer into the eyes of the people we all turn away from.

Roy McCarthy's Rating

Roy McCarthy's Review

I guess the clue was in the title. It never quite all came together. Intriguing characters, each with his or her own story came and went…and never returned. Only reading the author’s notes at the end did I realise that Sketches From the Spanish Mustang was indeed a collection of stand-alone novellas. There was never the intention for a rounded story in the traditional sense.

The background for each of the sketches is the former mining town turned gambling centre Cripple Creek in Colorado, a place the author clearly knows well. Crumbling boom town buildings saved by the tourist dollar. The decaying pitheads on the outskirts of town, the descendants of the miners’ burros roaming the environs in the shadow of the inhospitable hills, all expertly conveyed to the reader. The glue holding the sketches together is the Artist, herself a tortured soul following the death of husband and son many years before. She blames herself and finds herself in a purgatory, condemned to sketch similarly troubled individuals until she is ‘released’.

She sits outside the Spanish Mustang Casino and, sensing favourable subjects, commences to sketch. We meet a former miner having lost his self-respect drawn into domestic killings sparked by money and jealousy; the Indian drunk who speaks with a boy ghost; the touching story of a mother and her wayward teenage daughter, a brain-damaged war veteran and the middle-aged waitress never able to find refuge from an abusive past.

The best sketch ought to have been left until last; instead the story of Fulano opened the book. An illegal immigrant seeking his fortune to support his family is granted his life on the journey across the border only for the bargain to come home to roost in Cripple Creek. A lovely piece of storytelling.

Writland is a good writer, no frills or fancy imagery, with the sense of how a good story works. I’d just have preferred to have known up front that it was a collection.

Review Disclaimer: This book was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review. The above review was not influenced in any way, including financial.