Paint My Body Red by Heidi R. Kling is a wonderful novel about loss, pain, and recovery. While the story turns quite dark in several parts, dealing with issues such as suicide, rape, and illness, the story as a whole is quite beautiful and well thought out.
Facing a great deal of stress, pain, and problems at home, Paige is being sent away from her home in California to spend the summer on her father’s old ranch in Wyoming. While this isn’t really how she wants to be spending her summer, she figures she will be able to hide out and escape everything that’s been going on. Her mother and step-father want her to go to protect her, because six of her classmates have committed suicide over the past few months, and they are afraid she will be next.
Upon arriving at the ranch, she is greeted by Jake, a boy she used to know from when she was little. While she doesn’t remember him at first, she finds Jake a charming “cowboy,” and wonders if she will see plenty of him during the summer. However, when she arrives back to the ranch and sees her father after several years, her idea of hiding out and relaxing all summer on the ranch is flipped upside down. Paige’s father is suffering from ALS, and is confined to a wheelchair, uses a respirator to breathe, and cannot communicate by speech, but uses a keyboard to type messages. He has a live in caretaker who acts like his nurse and Jake to help out on the ranch, but with his medical bills, there isn’t enough money to afford upkeep on the ranch, and they are in danger of losing it. Paige hadn’t known how bad her father’s illness had gotten, so she is surprised when she shows up on the ranch.
After spending time with Jake, she starts riding horses again, and gets close to a wild horse that’s living on the ranch, who she names Scout. Armed with a desire to win the grand prize in a rodeo and get enough money to save the ranch, Paige enters the competition with Scout and hopes that it will be enough to win.
This was one of those books that I was looking forward to reading. I participated in the cover reveal for it a while ago, because I was excited about the book, and I was even more excited to have the chance to read it. It was heartwarming in some places – the kind of feel-good book that you want to curl up with on a cold night and just lose yourself in. However, there were one or two spots that required tissues, so make sure you have some on hand!
The romance that blossomed between Paige and Jake is the kind of romance that you really want to read. It’s somewhat slower paced (no insta-love here, thankfully), and it takes its time to build up into something sweet.
Everything is neatly wrapped up at the end of the book, so it isn’t like there are any cliffhangers or anything, which was refreshing.
Note: I received an ARC copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.