Tim's Reviews > Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
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Jan 10, 13

Read from November 26, 2012 to January 03, 2013

I was given this book in the early 1970’s from my Army buddy Butch Drury, himself in the Ph.D. program in English when he was drafted; he now is in the Hospital Administration department at Northwestern, but remains a Renaissance Man, but I digress. This wonderful short book by the author of Ship of Fools contains three short novels about change, sadness, tragedy, sometimes hope, and deep character study, about both individuals and the environment they’re in. Her prose is carefully and thoughtfully worded and I’m sure she was an influence on the likes of Annie Proulx and Joyce Carol Oates.

The first story, “Old Mortality,” follows a young girl, Miranda, through some 27 years from 1885 through 1912, as she slowly questions and then rejects her social status/situation (sort of lower-upper-class), because of the pretentions and concerns for appearances of her family. The process of realization of this issue, and rebellion against it, is reminiscent of Riochard Wright’s “Almos’ A Man,” although in the latter the environment is the deep South and the characters are African-American’ the theme remains the same, however.

The second, “Noon Wine, involves a farmer who becomes involved with a drifter from North Dakota who helps him for some 20 or so years and helps his small dairy farm thrive. Then a bounty hunter shows up and says the drifter is an escapee from a lunatic asylum and wants the farmer to help him capture the man. This throws the farmer into a moral dilemma, with tragic consequences.

In the third, “Pale Horse, Pale Rider,” we again see Miranda from the first story, this time as a young woman doing volunteer work during WWI. She meets a soldier and they, I guess, fall in love, or what passes for it during wartime. He has to leave and she falls gravely ill; some of the best passages in this story are descriptions of her delirious experiences, and indeed she almost dies. Nonetheless, the story, while ending up with some tragedy, also emphasizes strength of character in going on and emotionally surviving after traumatic experiences.
I would recommend this book highly, and indeed if I can locate Butch again after these many years, I plan to send this review to him.
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