Fragile Beasts: A Novel by Tawni O'Dell (2010) pushed all the right buttons for this reader.
Told in segments written in different characters' points of view, the book begins with a bullfight in 1959 Spain. Then we jump to the present, when Candace Jack, the seventy-six-year-old woman who loved the bullfighter, is living as a wealthy recluse, surrounded by reminders of Spain and her lost love.
Throw in local high school boys Kyle and Klint Hayes, who just lost their father to a drunk-driving accident after being abandoned by their mother a few years earlier, and you have a lot of room for creating a lot of emotional drama.
I think Kyle's voice, that of the artistic loner who struggles to be more like the other kids and always feels lost in the shadow of baseball star Klint, is my absolute favorite from the book.
O'Dell's writing style is so engaging that I actually found myself wanting to attend a bullfight. Seriously?? Never thought I'd feel that way about bullfighting. She knows how to describe grand passions in a way that makes at least this reader resonate with the character's feelings.
And she did a spot-on job of creating a small Pennsylvania town in the era after teh closing of the coal mine. The people came alive right along with her descriptions of their interactions and the very scenery around them. O'Dell's especially adept at describing family interactions and dynamics.
You can learn more at the author's site here.
My overall personal rating of Fragile Beasts: A Novel is an A.