Kept Animals

Scribner. Apr. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781501188589. $27.
After her award-winning story collection If I’d Known You Were Coming, Milliken offers a gripping debut novel that sweeps back and forth from Topanga Canyon in 1993 to Little Snake, WY, in 2015. Fifteen-year-old Rory Ramos, mostly adrift but a talented photographer, lives with stepfather Gus Scott and neglectful mother Mona at the Leaning Rock Ranch, where Gus is the lead horse trainer. with Sonja, Jorge, and son Tomas maintaining the ranch for its wealthy owner. Rory is both stable hand and skilled rider, training with well-to-do friends June and Wade Fisk, twins who board their horses at Leaning Rock. The twins are wild and undisciplined, and both hit on Rory. Nearby at a palatial estate, self-absorbed movie star Everett Price neglects mentally fragile wife Sarah, aimless teenage daughter Vivian, and demanding baby Charlie. The teenagers’ lives crisscross recklessly, and Rory is pulled into danger. Then a car crash affects everyone from clueless Everett to hardworking Sonja and Jorge, and a devastating wildfire engulfs the canyon.
VERDICT Milliken pulls out all the stops to deliver a riveting page-turner, an unforgettable story of loss and renewal. She is a powerful talent to watch. [See Prepub Alert, 2/4/20.]

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