21 July 2016, The Tablet

Runners and riders

by Markie Robson-Scott


The Mare

Could Ginger be just another rich white woman messing with a kid whose culture she doesn’t understand? When she and her husband Paul volunteer as a host family with the Fresh Air Fund, which places inner-city kids with kind folks in upstate New York for two weeks in the summer, some people, including Velvet’s mother and Paul, are dubious about her motives. Ginger wants to adopt, Paul doesn’t, so fostering Velveteen Vargas, an 11-year-old Dominican girl from Brooklyn, seems a good compromise. But nothing’s simple.

Ginger and Velvet are as needy and complicated as each other. Ginger, 47, is a failed artist, an unsteady ex-addict who met Paul, an English professor, at AA. Velvet is beautiful and sensitive, with a harsh, illiterate mother who showers love on her five-year-old son but seems to have none left over for her daughter. She beats her and tells her she has bad blood. Ginger’s passion for Velvet is instant but the set-up, thinks Paul, “seemed an ­unstable mix of things, combustible, a promise that could not be kept”.

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