The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

Written by Anton DiSclafani
Review by Arleigh Johnson

During the Great Depression, a wealthy family is shattered by a daughter’s indiscretion, and as a result she is sent away to a remote prestigious boarding school in Appalachia. Having been raised by her parents in luxury on their expansive citrus farm, but cut off from everyone except family, Theadora Atwell was well-educated and an excellent equestrienne, but very naive and awkward around others. This deficiency was overlooked by her parents, who had thought their seclusion from society to be beneficial to their two children, but found they had ultimately handicapped them emotionally.

At Yonahlossee Thea finds comradeship among the other girls, but also fierce rivalry, malicious gossip and rigid social protocol – with which she was not equipped to deal. She begins to obsess over the mysterious headmaster, all while looking back over the troubled past year through flashbacks and letters. As the story pieces together, the reader gains more clues about the history of the Atwells while delving into Thea’s character, narrated by an older version of herself looking back onto youthful folly.

The effect of the Great Depression on once-privileged families is a major theme of the story, but also expanded upon is the role of women in a changing society. There is an interesting psychological look at the family unit and the relationships between parents and children – of expectations and disappointments. This is an impressive novel on the equestrienne life with minute details that are a critical aspect for truly authentic writing, especially for those not well-versed in the subject.