Sunshine in Dark Times by Joseanne Capelo

SUNSHINE IN DARK TIMESThis 128 page, debut novel by 12-year-old Joseanne Capelo displays an emotional maturity which belies the author’s age and is incredibly well-written.  Her characters are distinctive, colourful and utterly believable.  The plot is original and exciting and (except for minor inconsistencies and brief moments where the reader’s credulity is strained) portrays a convincing drama of a contemporary (albeit rather atypical) young teenager’s life. The dialogue is engaging and the social (and often intimate) interactions between the characters are described with great sensitivity and emotional awareness by this young authoress. The story is ‘real’ and heartwarming.

Sunshine in Dark Times is a ‘coming-of-age’ story all pre-teens and young teenagers will relate to; it is filled with adventure, fun, friendship, tragedy, romance and – yes, most important of all – horses!  For all young horse-lovers, this novel is filled with great insight into the heartfelt art of True Horsemanship!

The novel is written in the first-person and the author writes for sensitive and intelligent young adults her own age – of both sexes; the heroine of the story is 15-year-old Rachel Delta. She narrates a three-year period in her life (from age 15 to 18) when an unforeseen and radical change in life circumstances suddenly catapults her into an unimaginable future, replete with both heartbreak and unexpected rapture…

Rachel’s story begins when she is forced to leave her secure home environment in West Palm Beach, Florida (where she lives happily with her mother in the same apartment block as her two best friends and her boyfriend) and has to emigrate to England to live in a huge mansion with her wealthy but seriously estranged father (whom she has no memories of at all since her mother eloped with her when she was only 2 years old and refused to ever discuss the matter)…

Once she arrives, Rachel soon discovers that her father is a selfish and brutal man.  He is abusive towards his five ‘live-in’ servants and totally indifferent to Rachel’s presence in his house, intent only on usurping the eight million dollars she is due to inherit upon turning 18 from a Trust Fund set up by her grandparents.  Furthermore, after arriving at the mansion, Rachel hears nothing further from her mother (who has gone to live with her new boyfriend in Thailand and is obviously going through a serious ‘mid-life crisis’ of her own).  There is no mention of any form of schooling after Rachel’s emigration to England – a serious oversight on the part of both her parents…

Thus emotionally abandoned, Rachel is left to navigate a premature transition from childhood to adulthood on her own and she compensates – filling in the emotional vacuum created by her irresponsible parents – by quickly making new friends and finding a surrogate ‘home-away-from-home’ at Greenwood Stables and Riding School, just down the road from the mansion.  The kind and responsible owner, Mr. Greenwood, becomes a sort-of surrogate ‘father figure’, while her father’s concerned housekeeper, Janine, assumes a motherly role towards her.

A lifelong dream of horse riding, entering riding competitions and eventually owning her own horse (Golden Sunshine) all come true as new social alliances are formed at Greenwood Riding School.  As the story unfolds, Rachel makes many new friends (and even a few enemies). A ‘special’ friendship develops between her and Adam, a young riding instructor of Mr. Greenwoods’ (who also happens to be from Florida) and this finally blossoms into romance… Disappointments and betrayals are experienced, but also moments of personal victory and intense happiness at overcoming life’s challenges.

The heart of the novel, however, is the love and trust that develops between Rachel and the mare, Golden Sunshine.  As Rachel cares for the traumatized horse (who does not trust people due to past mistreatment) and as Sunshine comes to love and trust Rachel (and other human beings again), so Rachel heals and discovers in herself an emotional strength and maturity (and innate love) to guide her through her own difficult transition in life.

Golden Sunshine becomes for Rachel a ‘lodestar’, her Sunshine in Dark Times, as she slowly lets go of the irredeemable past and embraces her full potential and the promise of the future. By the time she turns 18-years old (when the story ends) she has successfully navigated the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood, and has emerged victorious!

Book Reviewer: Quanta Henson

For: Umsinsi Press








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