I’m still not sure why I picked up this book, but I’m very glad I did. I tend to avoid books having to do with bull riding and I often find that Native American literature tends to be way too deep for my scrawny little brain, but somehow Dream Wheels made it into my house and actually moved to the top of my book pile.
Rodeo cowboy Joe Willie Wolfchild suffers a devastating accident three second into the ride that would have made him a champion. His family takes him to the ranch to heal his body and the anger of having lost everything that was meaningful for him. Meanwhile, Aiden and Claire are struggling along in the city. Claire has tried her best mothering Aiden, but with a string of bad boyfriends and no confidence to try to make it on her own, things haven’t turned out like she had hoped. Aiden ends up in prison where a sympathetic cop presents the idea of Claire and Aiden spending some time on his friends’ ranch to try to pull their lives together. The two families come together with wariness, pain, anger, regret, and just enough hope to get by. Joe Willie and Aiden challenge each other and learn from each other, pulling each other out of the dark places they have gone.
Dream Wheels had me caught within a few pages. Wagamese has the ability to not just describe the events, but also share how they feel. When Joe Willie rode the bull for the last time, I could almost taste the dirt and hear how the sounds of the crowd faded away until he was focused on the feel of the bull on his tailbone and the rope around his glove. The author doesn’t leave out any of the grit and ugliness of the anger these two young men face, enabling him to venture into the heart of relationships and spirituality without crossing the line into schmaltzy sentimentalism. Dream Wheels is a truly beautiful story.