Why was Thea suddenly sent away to a riding camp/boarding school in North Carolina, far from her home in Florida? Thea and her twin brother Sam were born into a wealthy family with a doctor for a father and a beautiful mother who inherited orange groves and loves gardening and horses as much as Thea. Set mainly in 1929 – 1930, it is a story of a world with strict rules regarding ‘proper’ behavior, especially for females, clear social levels, and money – vital but never discussed.
The family lives an insulated life – there are no social equals nearby – and their only regular visitors are Thea’s aunt, uncle, and a slightly older cousin, George. As the adults seem oblivious to the maturation of the children, natural biological changes are occurring. The details of Thea’s fall work their way out gradually until almost the end, but a sense of the general nature of them surfaces early.
Once sent to the camp, Thea gradually adjusts to what she believes is only a summer-long exile. She begins to see a world much larger than previously known, learns the ins and outs of the social world of young ladies, and, as the effects of the Wall Street collapse begin to impact the lives and status of other students, sees that money does matter. She also learns that she cannot only survive, but actually thrive as a separate person from her twin and other family members. Her life has veered down a different road just by living in another place without them, and all she left behind is irrevocably altered.
This is a well-drawn slice of a time, place, and a rigid society beginning to shatter. A true coming of age novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a wonderfully complex but not confusing story. It was a satisfying reading experience.