A modern-day rendering of West Side Story born on a New York City subway car and nurtured under the windmills of the Mojave Desert.
Both Sebastian and Maria live in a world ruled by fear. Sebastian, a lonely seventeen-year-old, is suffocating under his dominant father’s control. In the ten years since his mother passed away, his father has kept him “safe” by barely allowing him out of their apartment. Sebastian’s secret late-night subway rides are rare acts of rebellion. Another, is a concealed friendship with his neighbor Delilah, who encourages him to question his father’s version of reality. Soon it becomes unclear whether even his mother’s death was a lie.
Maria, a young mother of two, is trying to keep peace at home despite her boyfriend’s abuse. When she loses her job, she avoids telling him by riding the subways during her usual late-night shift. She knows her sister, Stella, is right: She needs to “live in the truth” and let the chips fall where they may. But she still hasn’t been able to bring herself to do it. And soon he will expect her paycheck to arrive.
When Sebastian and Maria wind up on the same train, their eyes meet across the subway car, and these two strangers find a connection that neither can explain or ignore. Together they dream of a new future, agreeing to run away and find Sebastian’s grandmother in the Mojave Desert. But Maria doesn’t know Sebastian is only seventeen. And Sebastian doesn’t know Maria has children until the moment they leave. Ultimately, Maria brings one child, her daughter. Can she really leave her little boy behind? And, if not, what will it cost her to face her furious jilted abuser?
In this tremendously moving novel, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows us how two people trapped by life’s circumstances can break free and find a place in the world where love is genuine and selfless.
Chasing Windmills is a deeply moving story about love and life, and the difficulties associated with removing yourself from an abusive home life. It’s a novel that grabs you tight and refuses to let go until the very end – indeed, I read it all entirely in one night!
Both of the main characters, Maria and Sebastian, were likeable and engaging, their individual situations stirring my highly empathic nature and I reveled in their ’emerging against the odds’ lovestory. The use of West Side Story as a metaphoric backdrop for Maria and Sebastian was very cleverly interwoven throughout the story; not only was it Maria’s favourite ‘go-to’ movie, it was also effectively used as a comparative technique when establishing the relationship between Maria and Sebastian.
Highly emotional and delicately understated, Chasing Windmills reveals much of the inner thoughts of a repressed individual with honesty and a rawness I have come to expect and appreciate from Catherine Ryan Hyde.
Catherine Ryan Hyde is an American novelist and short story writer, with more recent forays and notable success in transitioning from traditional publication towards the world of eBook publication. Her novels have enjoyed bestseller status in both the U.S. and U.K., and her short stories have won many awards and honors. Her book Pay It Forward was adapted into a movie and her novel Electric God is currently in development.