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Ghost Horse

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  76 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Set amidst the social tensions of 1970's Houston, Ghost Horse tells the story of eleven-year-old Buddy Turner's shifting alliances within his fragmented family and with two other boys--one Anglo, one Latino--in their quest to make a Super-8 animated movie. As his father's many secrets begin to unravel, Buddy discovers the real movie: the intersection between life as he see ...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published September 22nd 2014 by Gival Press
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Thomas McNeely Becky -

Thank you for this question! My apologies for having taken so long to reply. When I was writing Ghost Horse, I tried to create a coming of age …more
Becky -

Thank you for this question! My apologies for having taken so long to reply. When I was writing Ghost Horse, I tried to create a coming of age book like ones I had read as an adolescent, like Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote, and Stop Time, by Frank Conroy. I don't claim to have achieved what Capote or Conroy did in their books, but I do think that Ghost Horse is accessible for readers of all ages, though there are adult situations, and elements of the book which will not be clear to younger readers. But this was one of the pleasures, to me, of reading books that were over my head when I was younger, and of re-reading them now from a different perspective - the shifting depths of a good book. This is what I've tried to achieve in Ghost Horse.
Best, Tom(less)

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Richard Jespers
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Do you recall how the world seemed to you, at times, when you were twelve? Not quite all of its pieces fit together? Mom and Dad speak in a foreign tongue? That’s how the entire novel, Ghost Horse, passes, as twelve-year-old Buddy Turner attempts to unearth this new world complicated by his parents’ divorce. McNeely recreates this vexing scenario so realistically that you feel as if you are Buddy.

At first, McNeely’s novel is frustratingly inscrutable. What is the meaning of this little bit of c
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ghost Horse is about a time when the folks in Houston, Texas were just exploring big changes in expectations and culture and yet it is a place where one could delineate the classes and futures clearly. The Mexicans lived in one area, the whites another, the wealthy even another location and the Negroes had their own place on this earth. There were even more categories such as conservative Christians and trailer trash; people spoke one way at home and the well-educated spoke another way in public ...more
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ghost Horse is told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old boy. As mentioned in its book blurb, it tackles on the delicate issues like class, bullying, abuse and racial tension.

It’s apparent that Buddy is in great pain. His parents are divorcing; it’s too much for him to handle. My heart breaks for him. Ghost Horse is quite hard for me to review; it’s so… poignant. Goodreads member Leila says it best: it’s a gripping read.

Page 58, in particular, was a heart stopper for me. I can’t give away
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For me, one of the most fascinating and moving aspects of the novel is its investigation of the powers—and limitations—of creativity. On the one hand, the Ghost Horse of the novel's title (the subject of an animated movie-in-progress) is a tragic figure: he’s imagined as a rescuer but is never fully realized, much less heroic. Even Buddy, the main character of the novel and the movie's co-creator, sometimes thinks of the Ghost Horse as a “lie,” something “only a child would believe.” On the othe ...more
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This novel is intricate and as delicate and complex as a spider’s web. The layers reveal Buddy's inner struggles, his humanity. Ultimately, the heart of this novel is about discovery, what Buddy Turner comes to understand about love, both its fragility and power. Its dimensions are universal, the lens of the boy brings forth an innocence and puts you on the edge of what transforms him.

As many postings have noted, the language paints a soulful and relentless world – and the culminating lines dri
Dec 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ghost Horse
by Thomas H. McNeely
Gival Press, September 2014
260 pages, $20
Reviewed by Michelle Newby

Thomas H. McNeely’s Ghost Horse, winner of the Gival Press Novel Award, follows eleven-year-old Buddy Turner, on the cusp of puberty, as he tries to make sense of an adult Wonderland where everything is not as it seems. Buddy and his best friend Alex Torres want to make movies. The eponymous Ghost Horse is the combination animation/live action short they’re working on when Buddy’s life turns inside
Laura Jean
This is a well written literary style novel about a family in crisis and the effects of that on the 11 year old protagonist. My ranking has nothing to do with the quality of this book. I simply hated most of the characters and felt sorry for the rest. I simply didn't enjoy reading it ...more
Beth (fuelled by fiction)
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
It’s Houston, Texas, and it’s the 1970s. Buddy Turner is eleven years old and likes to make animated movies with his best friend, Alex Torres. Buddy’s parents don’t live together any more. Two years ago his father moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana to finish med school and serve the Army. But now his dad has moved back to Houston, and he still doesn’t live with them. He is Buddy’s dad, but he’s not the same. Sometimes when Buddy looks at him, he sees his father. But other times, he see someone else. ...more
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ghost Horse by Thomas McNeely is a powerful debut novel; it is both a deeply moving coming-of-age story and an intense psychological portrait of a family in crisis. McNeely weaves an intricate web of a plot against the backdrop of the racial and class tensions of Houston of the 1970s. The tale of 11-year-old Buddy over one unsettling year of his adolescence makes for a compelling and worthwhile read.

This novel is quite beautifully written. McNeely’s dialogue is sharp and believable, and he skill
Warwick Wadlington
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel left me in harrowed astonishment and admiration. It's one of those books that you'll always remember, becoming part of your imagination and understanding of the world.
Congratulations to McNeely for the power of "Ghost Horse" and for his fidelity to finding the right way to tell this story, which allowed me to continue reading, to continue being harrowed by the tortured fidelity compelling the novel's people. I'd advise a reader to be patient with the beginning of the novel as the st
Marian Szczepanski
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It’s no easy thing to write a coming-of-age novel for adult readers from the perspective of a child. The prose must be sharply observed, capturing the action at hand and its emotional content, yet necessarily incomplete, given a child’s limited understanding of adult behavior, particularly when those adults behave in concertedly duplicitous fashion. Such is the milieu of Thomas McNeely’s remarkable debut and Gival Press Novel Award winning Ghost Horse. With uncanny precision, McNeely inhabits th ...more
Tia Bach
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Buddy is a boy torn between two parents and all their issues. His escape is focusing on a movie project with one of his friends. But creative endeavors can't hold back the troubles in his family and society in general.

So much is right about this novel. For instance, Buddy is an intricate character who will find his way into the reader's heart. He is struggling, and his pain jumps off the pages. Then, there are his interactions with kids his own age, which showcases both society at the time and
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Ghost Horse is going to be a hard book for me to review. The story of his parents relationship is told through the eyes of an 11 YO boy. I wanted to like this book because it seemed like one I would enjoy. But, after I finishing it, I can't say that I really liked the book. I'm not saying it's badly written. I know that there will be a lot of people who will enjoy this style of writing. It just didn't work for me.

Having everything told through Buddy's point of view didn't work for me. I felt lik
Lea(nora)’s Book Nooks
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: tlc-books
If I could give this book 3.5 stars, I would! Review to come on the blog next week-

Ghost Horse by Thomas H. McNeely is a beast of a book; full of self-discovery, harsh realities and a sense of hope, this novel is worth the read.

Ghost HorseConsidering the main character, Buddy, is a young man this book seems like it would have a place on the shelves of high school libraries, recommended by the English teachers, and for any adolescent male struggling to make sense of the world. Buddy is trapped b
Karen O'Connell
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ghost Horse is a powerful book that tells the story of Buddy Turner, a boy caught in the drama of his family and the social upheaval of Texas in the seventies. The reader is carried along in Buddy’s point of view as he tries to make sense of what is happening between his parents and what is the “real story.” His confusion plays out on the page, in taut scenes filled with his tension of not wanting to hurt his parents or his friends. Yet he is bewildered by what is really happening, of what is re ...more
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading Ghost Horse; I loved this novel. I knew Buddy would have to do something, and I didn't know what it would be. I had to find out. I loved McNeely's handling of the strange and frightening world of the anguished child, the longing for sense and order, and the tenuous lines between mental health and madness that we all experience, but that adolescence heightens. Buddy Turner is a character I will not forget. ...more
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is written with such sensitivity and depth of emotion, it leaves you feeling raw inside. With his starkly beautiful prose, McNeely succeeds in exposing all the magic and terror of growing up. Ghost Horse brings it all to the surface: the dreams of young boys, broken families, friendships built on secrets and unpredictable shifts of power, the emerging awareness of social injustice and betrayal. It makes you wonder how any of us survived childhood.
Disclosure: I am friends with the author.

This is a harsh and beautiful book. I was both fascinated and repelled by this story of boys being twisted by the manipulations, blindness, and selfishness of the adults that are supposed to nurture and project them. The two main child characters, Buddy and Simon, try to find ways to strike back at the world and feel some control in the only way they can, with devastating results. This will stick with me for a long time.

4.5 stars
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was very well done, though a bit shattering in the end... kind of like if Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson teamed up to write a coming-of-age novel set in 1970 Houston. Beautiful writing, at the same time bleak, and very textural-I'm still mulling it over in my mind. Absolutely a terrific debut novel. ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ghost Horse is a haunting novel which builds with complexity, urgency, and despair. The novel will stay with you long after you've put it down. ...more
Lynne Griffin
A mesmerizing novel about family alliances and the pain parents cause when they put children in the middle of their own heartache.
Jesse Ehrlich
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Horse by Thomas McNeely. As a child of divorce in the late 60s, I was struck by the way Mr. McNeely's writing captures the conflicting emotions and layers of discord that I still remember so vividly. The scenes with Buddy, the protagonist, and his classmates are masterful. It's rare to glimpse an accurate portrayal into the lives of children but Buddy's voice and thoughts were so well conveyed to the reader. This book left a strong impression - highly recommended!
Alexis Clements
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Other reviewers have covered many other aspects of the book well, so I'll simply say, that while reading this book I couldn't help but think of adolescent logic - of the heightened senses and states of reality that you feel at that age, the states of consciousness and being that make it seem as if you will simply burst into flame, as if a set of drawings could kill a person, as if all the world can see into your quite vulnerable soul. Pieces of that stick around past adolescence for many. I thin ...more
Jay Geigley
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing

A tough read only that it's emotionally brutal, unflinching, and gathers intensity as it goes along. Well done.
Lowell White
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Sep 24, 2014
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Race and Class in Ghost Horse 1 2 Oct 27, 2014 10:57PM  
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A former Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer in fiction at Stanford University, Thomas H. McNeely's work has appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and Epoch, and has been anthologized in The Best American Mystery Stories; What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers; and Algonquin Books’ Best of the South:From the Second Decade of New Stories from the South. He ha ...more

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