Barich debuted in 1980 with this magnificent meditation on horse-racing, yet the rich, full portrait he paints of the track and its colorful citizenry--human and hoofed--is only prelude to the work's enduring appeal. It is really a finely crafted memoir about loss and longing, renewal and affirmation.
Its opening is irresistible: "For me it did not begin with the horses. They came later, after a phone call and a simple statement of fact: Your mother has cancer." Barich copes with that horrible reality as best he can, losing his pain in the drama of the track, and finding himself in a pilgrimage through Renaissance literature and the memories of an earlier part of his life lived in Florence, Italy. If the combination seems a longshot at best, remember: the greater the odds, the better the pay-off, and Laughing in the Hills pays off staggeringly.