Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss

The Hearts of Horses was written by Molly Gloss. The author was born on 20, November 1944 and grew up in Oregon, USA. Gloss grew up in rural Oregon and began writing seriously when she became a mother, she is  currently best known for historical and science fiction. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and has taught writing and literature of molly glossthe American West at Portland State University.  Portland State University is a public coeducational research university located in the southwest University District of downtown Portland, Oregon. The author has also served as visiting professor at Pacific University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program. Pacific University is a private university located in Oregon, United States. The first campus began more than 160 years ago and is located about 38 km west of Portland in Forest Grove. The Hearts of Horses was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. It was book of the month for my book group. To be honest, this is not a book that would have appealed to me. I probably would not have read it otherwise.

The story starts in the winter of 1917, a big-boned young woman shows up at George Bliss’s doorstep. She’s looking for a job breaking horses, and he hires her. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath her showy rodeo garb, a shy but strong-willed girl with a gift for gentling wild horses. So it is that the tale of nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen, a female horse whisperer trying to make a go of it in a man’s world, begins.

hearts of horsesI have no knowledge of horses, horse whispering and less interest in finding out. So, for me, this book really did drag. It is beautifully written and subtly researched. However, I had no interest in the subject matter. The characters were not of interest to me either. It was a long, long read.

Along the way, Martha helps a family save their horses when their wagon slides into a ravine. She gentles a horse for a dying man a last gift to his young son. She also clashes with a hired hand who is abusing horses in unspeakable ways.  Over several long, hard winter months, many of the townsfolk in this remote county of eastern Oregon witness Martha’s way of talking in low, gentle tones to horses and they watch her getting miraculous, almost immediate results and she thereby earns their respect.

There is no doubt that The Hearts of Horses is a well written story about how people and animals make connections and touch each other’s lives in unexpected and profound ways, but, while the book will be enchanting to many, it did not do it for me: so I, personally, cannot recommend it.

Valerie Penny



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