Beth Cato's Reviews > The Hearts of Horses

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
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's review
Apr 10, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: in, 2010, literary, fiction, historical, horse
Read in March, 2010

As the United States enters World War I, the final remnants of the Old West can still be found in eastern Oregon. Nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen rides into Elwha County with a string of horses and a dream of making her way as a horse gentler. In ranch and farm country depleted of young men heading off to war, Martha finds an unusual niche as she begins making her rounds training horses in a circuit. Her unusual garb and ways with horses are a spectacle to behold, but slowly, Martha's soothing ways show results with her horses--and in the families she encounters.[return][return]I must say, I wasn't too sure about this book as I started. The third-person omniscient narrator knows all, referring to events far in the future and beyond the scope of the book, even going so far far as to mention when some folks die; that jolted me out of the story more than once. Martha is the main character, but the story follows a varied cast of very real people. Actually, I would say this is one of the finest books I've read as far as creating genuine characters. Everyone and everything about this book grew on me as I read. As the blurbs at the front said, the title may say it' s about the hearts of horses but it's really about the hearts of humans, too. Martha is slow and awkward in her conversations as the book begins, relating to horses better than people. Her maturity is beautiful to behold.[return][return]There was one chapter in this book that almost drove me to sobs. I've read a lot of books. Some make me tear up. But this? Oh my gosh. I read at the end that the author's husband died and she stopped writing for three years until she started on this book. I think that single chapter channels much of her grief, and it's absolutely devastating.[return][return]If you love horses, if you love studies of humanity, if you're curious about an in-depth look at the American rural home front during World War I... read this book. I hope it touches you as it did me.
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