Book Review: Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I think that Catherine Ryan Hyde might just be my new favorite author. I've read two of her books recently and am about to start a third. In discovering this author, I feel like I have found someone who gets to the very basis of what makes us human, what makes us need and hurt. She is a master developer of characters with real motivations and authentic voices.

Chasing Windmills
is an emotional roller coaster, and much of the ride left me feeling panicked. I just never felt comfortable putting this book down because I had to find out what was going to happen to the main characters. And, this book goes back and forth between two main characters. So the suspense was heightened at the end of each section.

The female main character, Maria, is a young mother in her twenties. She is living with her high school boyfriend, who is anything but a sweetheart. She frequently has bruises from his violent outbursts and has taken to riding the subway at night while she's supposed to be at work. Her boyfriend can't know that she was fired from her job, and Maria needs the escape that the subway brings to keep her sanity.

And then she meets Sebastian. He's not yet eighteen, but can't wait for his birthday. Ever since his mother died when he was a young boy, his overprotective father has kept him a virtual prisoner in his apartment. Every element of Sebastian's life is controlled by his father. Sebastian has no friends, except for an elderly neighbor woman who lives in his building. He rides the subway at night as a way to cure his insomnia. When he meets Maria, she's all he can think of.

It isn't long before these lonely souls start dreaming of an escape. But, with Maria's increasingly abusive and obsessive boyfriend and Sebastian's neurotic father watching their every move, how is Maria going to get her two young children, herself to safety?

This is a gripping story that does not offer up any easy answers to the main characters' situations. I loved the quiet tension and pain that the author created for these characters. They were not loud, but suffering in silence in a huge city. I can't help but think that there are too many real-life Marias and Sebastians who are looking for a way out of their painful day-today existences. Hopefully, books like this one will show these young people the possibilities that exist when you seek help in getting to a safe place.