Electronic publishing has removed barriers that used to prevent stories that just don't fit in the conventional publishing business. Stories that once would have been too short or too long or too weird or too niche focused to print can now be downloaded for a few bucks and read on your e-reader. We are the better for this change. Steven Hawley's Cattle Market probably isn't a book you would have read back in the print-only days. It's too long to be a proper short story, but it's too short to be a real novel. The premise (a look at life, love, and loss in the British 'care industry') is both too specific and too morbid for traditional publishing. At a mere $2.99 on Kindle (or nothing extra on Kindle Unlimited), it's a bargain of a read.
The story may be a bargain, but it's also a sobering--and often saddening--look at the abuses in what Americans would typically refer to as nursing homes. Human decency and compassion find victories large and small along the way, but the tale ends with the battle unwon.
The story extends over four plus decades in the care industry as it evolves in Britain from the 1960s to the 2010s. For Americans like myself, some of the British terminology may be confusing even while the problems sound familiar. If you have visited a loved one in a nursing home, you'll recognize the setting and the challenges right away.
Despite the ambitious time scale covered, the tale moves forward at a brisk pace. There's no room for florid prose or plot detours. Given the content of the story and the all-to-real abuses perpetrated by some of the characters, I appreciated the efficient telling of hard truths.
To be a good read and a worthwhile story should be enough, but I also appreciate authors like Steven Hawley for taking the plunge and sharing his work with us. Indie authors aren't the only ones worth reading, but Cattle Market is one indie offering worth a read.
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must acknowledge that Steven and I are friends in the online world. I probably wouldn't have known about his book otherwise, but if I had read it I would have been impressed even without knowing him.