“Shoalie’s Crow” by Karen Donley-Hayes

“Shoalie’s Crow” by Karen Donley-Hayes 683 1024 Reader Views Kids

Shoalie’s Crow

Karen Donley-Hayes
Family of Light Books (2024) 
ISBN: 979-8988120384
Reviewed by Michaela Gordoni for Reader Views (12/2023) 

“Shoalie’s Crow” by Karen Donley-Hayes is about a horse who comes into existence with a memory of what she believes is the death of her human self. Born as a newborn foal and bred to be a racehorse, Shoalie (short for “Diamond Shoals”) has a lot of learning to do. She tries to find her way in this strange new world, feeling like a human in a horse’s body. When she comes across another animal with similar abilities, a crow named Nik, she is astonished and believes that he must have been human too, unlike the other animals around them.

Nik and Shoalie do have a lot in common, but their perspectives on their lives and connections with humans are opposite. With Shoalie’s extremely high intelligence and a crow as her only companion, she is often lonely. But she feels a special connection to a woman named Oksana. Her pull toward Oksana and her friendship with Nik keep her going—until finally she puts all the pieces of the puzzle together. 

At first glance, this might seem like a typical, gentle book about a special horse, but it is anything but that. It is serious, deep, and completely unique. In my many years as a bibliophile, I have never read anything like this. Karen Donley-Hayes shows the reader the world through Shoalie’s eyes. The setting of the story also doesn’t stay at the racetrack. At one point, Shoalie trades her life at the Kentucky races for one at a Texas ranch and travels to other places as well.

This book comes with a huge twist at the end. Outside of Nik and Shoalie, there is another human story that unravels on the sidelines—until they all merge into one at the end.  The side story of the human characters is very odd but compelling. The reader asks themselves what the real story is as they read. A lot of things don’t seem to make much sense at times, especially with Nik. Even though he can speak to Shoalie and read, he still has a few differences that make the reader wonder if he is really reincarnated, too. 

All in all, this is a very creative and introspective work of fiction. It is recommended for older teens and young adults, as it contains some strong language, suicide, and alleged animal abuse. The pace is pleasantly steady as Donley-Hayes carefully doles out clues to the characters’ purposes in the story. Anyone interested in topics such as reincarnation, dreams that become reality, deja vu, or horse fiction, in general, will find “Shoalie’s Crow” by Karen Donley-Hayes highly interesting. 

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