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On Swift Horses

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  39 ratings  ·  14 reviews
A lonely newlywed and her wayward brother-in-law follow divergent and dangerous paths through the postwar American West.

Muriel is newly married and restless, transplanted from her rural Kansas hometown to life in a dusty bungalow in San Diego. The air is rich with the tang of salt and citrus, but the limits of her new life seem to be closing in: She misses her freethink
Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: November 5th 2019 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  39 ratings  ·  14 reviews

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Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
“What a thing is progress.”

set in 1956 in the american west, this is a beautifully written book about two characters at odds with the postwar values of a country in the process of redefining itself, promising new opportunities that neither of them want.

muriel is 21 years old, a newlywed and recent arrival to san diego. her progressive, independent mother has recently died, leaving muriel their house in kansas. some months later, upon their discharge from the navy, her frequently rebuffed suitor lee and his
Christopher Alonso
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq, favorites
I can't remember the last time I read a debut novel where the writing was as self-assured as ON SWIFT HORSES. The book follows Muriel and her brother-in-law Julius through alternating points of view, both informing each other in different ways. Muriel becomes increasingly interested in gambling on horse racing, and Julius, a card cheat, tries his best to better his own life until he meets another gambler, Henry.
ON SWIFT HORSES is about so many things: love and secrets, gambling and desires, and
Jillian Doherty
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Normally I devour good books - this one though I needed to savor. Even if i wanted to absorb it more quickly I'd have lost the power of so many harrowing, lustful, devastating, life-changing moments you simple need to luxuriate in.

Plus I love a story with broken, yet unapologetic characters.
The venn diagram of characters: Muriel, her mother's story, Lee, Sandra are one world - Julius and Henry are another, but as Muriel and Julius' paths cross it's like lightning flashing.

I wouldn't want to s
Afton Montgomery
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
On the surface, this is a novel centered on gambling: horses, cards, horses again. Below the surface, though, it's about the ways that we gamble with ourselves-- and what's addictive in that. With sublime dexterity and perfect subtlety, Pufahl explores the pieces of her two characters-- a newlywed and her brother-in-law-- that they hide, the pieces that they trade and bury, the pieces that become their masks. On Swift Horses is the queer underbelly story of the American West that I didn't know I ...more
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
In the past, I’ve described books as slow burns. What I usually mean is that, as I read them, I can get a sense of a lit fuse at the center of the book. There are little sparks, gathering speed, usually towards some kind of dramatic explosion. The tension draws me along because I want to see what happens when the tinder lights. Shannon Pufahl’s On Swift Horses never really lights my fire. This is a slow book. It’s also a very subtle one. In this novel, two LGBT characters carefully navigate their desi ...more
Brenda Scanzillo
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hands down one of the best books of 2019. This book captures human emotion in such a stunningly raw way, painting beautiful, haunting scenes that will stay with you long after the book is finished. Julius’ desperate search for his lost love Henry is interspersed with images of a post-war country in a time of great change, where hotels advertise nuclear bomb tests in the desert to tourists and the interstate system is just rising up to transform the way we operate. Juxtaposed with Julius is the s ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A style-filled debut novel for anyone that loves Americana fiction and brilliant storytelling. It takes place in the 1950s and is a great period piece with characters that are just as evocative as its setting. While quite a short book there is constant friction and the pace often breaks from a trot into a gallop before the author draws on the reins again.

It’s about two people, Muriel and Julius, as they try to navigate love and discover themselves. To continue the horse metaphor, Muriel is a ti
Susie Dumond
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Set in post-WWII San Diego and Las Vegas, this queer Western is an exploration of desire, risk, and uncertainty. The writing is beautiful and the characters are wonderfully complex. I struggled with the plot a bit, but that wasn't really the point. Instead, it dug into two characters - Muriel, newly married and lonely in her new hometown of San Diego, and her brother-in-law Julius, working in casinos and lovesick for a handsome, young, cheating gambler. Each chapter peels back a thin layer of th ...more
In the aftermath of their military service, two brothers decide to follow their dreams and unite in California, the land of opportunity, with a dream of settling from Kansas. Lee, Muriel's husband pursues the dream of California. Julius, his gay brother, works at changing his life and finding his love in 50s United States. Muriel, Lee's wife, wants more and hides her actions and desires from Lee. Although often written beautifully, I found the work fragmented. Some of the plot lines were not dev ...more
Even if it's a fascinating description of American in the 50s I couldn't connect to the characters and the book fell flat.
Not my cup of tea.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruth Lounsbury
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book set around 1957. It is a slow burn that you are glad for. The characters are wanting yet hopeful. Americana writing at it's finest. I like to thank Riverhead Books for this ARC.
Carla  (happiestwhenreading)
DNF @ 22%.

Going to try again when I can have an actual book in my hands.
“Can’t have everything, hey. Not people like us.”

I’m sorry to say I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped. The synopsis promised things I love in my books – a 1950’s setting, an exotic location with Tijuana and the glamour of Las Vegas, but I just couldn’t get into the story. I think the main problem was that I had just read two books that had completely blown me away so any read that followed was bound to come up short!

Muriel and Julius are two characters seeking more from life.
Keith Vient
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Jun 22, 2019
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Jennifer Huang
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