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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2011
Renee is 16 years old when she becomes pregnant, drops out of school, and marries Kenny, her oafish boyfriend who is two years her senior. Predictably, this is not a "happily-ever-after" union. Kenny degenerates from a disagreeable lout into an abusive brute. Renee finally gets up the gumption to take their son and leave Kenny. But there the predictability ends. Unanticipated and surprising events transpire after Renee walks out on Kenny. Yet, what unfolds next still feels genuine and believable, making this story very compelling.

The characters are not one-dimensional stereotypes, but are painted as complex human beings. Renee, who is initially rather aimless, does develop ambitions to have a better life for herself and her son, and gets a job and goes to college. But she never undergoes a Superwoman metamorphosis. She struggles, makes mistakes, has lapses in judgment - she has her flaws (as well as bad luck), but you still totally root for her. Kenny cannot be written off as completely vile and good for nothing, as his love for his son is so strong. There are no clear victors in their battles, and plenty of disappointment and heartache to go around.

Given the circumstances, the book has a satisfying ending. There is also an epilogue, which briefly summarizes what happened to all of the characters in years hence. I appreciated that post script, but I loved this author's writing style so much that I would have been very happy had the book continued into the future and drawn out all of these events to their conclusion. I simply didn't want the book to end.

While "When Horses Had Wings" is certainly a poignant tale, it is not a depressing, oppressive book. This is largely due in part, I think, to the wonderful prose found in the story. Ms. Estill is a true wordsmith and not only did I enjoy the actual story itself, it was a separate pleasure just to read the words. The story is narrated by Renee, and her self-deprecating nature ensured that even a good bit of humor found its way into the book. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Estill's work.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2012
Have you ever read a story that centers around abuse, only to find yourself at the end wondering why you chose to waste your time getting depressed? "When Horses Had Wings" is different! I think Diana's background as a humorist allowed her to approach this story with a degree of detached amusement that drew me in and made me know right from page one that I would not regret the read. The characters seem so real, and the "victim," Renee, shows an inner strength that grows with her. She has moxy, it just takes her a while to realize it. Having grown up in the south, with several years in TX, I feel like I have personally met each of these characters at some point in my life. I'm pretty sure a few of them are based on my relatives! They are vivid and real, and Diana paints them in such a human way that I can't even hate the bad guys completely. I laughed, cried, and laughed again--and felt really good at "The End."
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2011
I have read and loved all of Diana's books and even though this book is fiction it could be the true story of an abused young woman in a marriage that becomes progressively worse to the point of not only mental but also physical violence. Renee still manages to have the courage to leave him and take her son with her and although her life is anything but easy, you feel like you know Renee by the end of the novel. I love when you get to the end of a book and want more and that's how I felt when I got to the end of this book, I didn't want it to end.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2011
My emotions ran the gamut...from anger to sadness to hope, and even laughter at Diana's wit. An emotionally charged read from the moment I began until I finished in only a few hours. I've never been to Texas, but Diana's words let me taste the dust and feel the heat of long summers in her native state. Without doubt, this is a book I highly recommend.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
I didn't *quite* like this book, but almost. I agree with some other reviewers that some areas of it just didn't become meaningful; I couldn't enter into the emotions. I don't want to give a spoiler, but there's a relationship that "develops" that is supposedly a runaway train. I never felt it. It was like someone telling me about what happened to their neighbor down the street.

That said, I did root for Renee. I didn't like the jump of, "...and then 6 years later..."; the ensuing time could have been "used" better, maybe. We needed to SEE those 6 years, or at least better glimpses of them. Then again, I think some lives do go that way: they happen while we're not looking.

The ending, well...I dunno. Plausible to some degree, but abrupt. If that was going to be the resolution, okay, but it did seem like a "...and then I woke up..." kind of thing.

Rather than an epilogue (Told, not Shown), I would rather have seen those outcomes at they unfolded.

I almost liked this book, but not quite.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2012
Though the title is a bit obscure relative to the topic, "When Horses Had Wings" is a well written book which follows an old, familiar theme of spousal abuse, poverty, hopelessness, and finally finding a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. There are places where the protagonist misses direction, but she is easy for the reader to relate to. Sprinkled with a bit of adult language, sarcasm and humor, the text is well written and maintains the reader's interest throughout and earns its four stars.

This book was received in eBook format from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2012
I LOVED this book! Cried, laughed, got pissed, and just genuinely felt for Renee as she goes through her life as a teenage Mom in an abusive marriage. Having been in an abusive marriage myself, it wasn't a stretch to feel what she was feeling, but at that tender age...OMGoodness. Brilliant character detail, and such imagery. The book really flowed well, keeping you on the edge of your seat! I read it in a few days because I couldn't put it down!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2011
From the outset it's clear that Renee's life isn't going to be rosy. Although she accepts her unintended pregnancy and teenage marriage to Kenny and plans to make the best of it, Kenny manages to make her life more and more miserable by the day. Anger and jealousy transform him from a useless, unsympathetic louse to an abusive spouse, not to mention the emotional abuse he employs in an attempt to control Renee and keep her underfoot. At times Renee's confidence wavers. But it is perhaps the birth of her son and her wish that he grow up to be something better than his father that spurs her to take a stand, even when she knows it's a dangerous move.

What I most loved about this story was observing Renee's personal growth. There is a rare flow to events and emotions, which makes for a highly compelling read. The characters are very well drawn - from those you cheer and care for, to the ones you just want to pummel.

This is a story that many women, unfortunately, can relate to. It is about discovering inner strength for all the right reasons. Without a doubt, I'll be reading more by this author. Her narrative voice is distinctive and the story engaged this reader 100% from start to finish. Highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2012
One of my recent reads was "Bird by Bird," by Anne Lamott. One of Lamott's recurring themes is that an author has to tell "the truth." This may seem strange when fiction, by definition, is a pack of lies; something the author has made up. What Lamott means is that everything about a character's actions and words has to ring true with the reader. "When Horses Had Wings" rings true. While Renee makes choices and takes actions that are sometimes obviously the wrong thing to do, they are always true to the character at that point in her life.

Although "When Horses Have Wings" addresses some serious topics (teen pregnancy and spousal abuse among them), it does so in a way that manages not to turn into a downer, while staying true to the story. I found Estill's writing style evocative and engaging, often reading a sentence or phrase and thinking she'd found the perfect way of expressing her thoughts. An excellent read.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2012
When Horses Had Wings is a moving tale of one woman -- actually one girl's -- journey from being an ill-informed, insecure teen, to being a pregnant teenager and battered wife. The story takes place during the 1970's prior to current laws on the books that protect women from spousal abuse, marital rape and the powerlessness that came with being from that time period. Add poverty and lack of education and the protagonist's tale appears quite bleak. That is, until she decides to take action for herself and improve her circumstances, albeit, with a few misguided choices along the way. The use of language was lovely and I found myself emotionally invested in the story and each of the characters. This is the type of story that can easily stand on the bookshelf next to the literary classic, "Mary * The Wrongs of Woman" by Mary Wollstonecraft (the great-great-grandparent to fiction dealing with this subject matter.)
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