Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Hearts of Horses” as Want to Read:
The Hearts of Horses
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Hearts of Horses

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,189 ratings  ·  715 reviews
This breakout novel from the author of The Jump-Off Creek tells the heartwarming story of a determined young woman with a gift for gentling wild horses.

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 on. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published November 6th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Hearts of Horses, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Penny No. The story follows the life of a young woman. It is historical fiction.
Black Beauty by Anna SewellThe Black Stallion by Walter FarleyKing of the Wind by Marguerite HenryMisty of Chincoteague by Marguerite HenrySeabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
Horse Books/Novels
1,289 books — 627 voters
Black Beauty by Anna SewellThe Black Stallion by Walter FarleyKing of the Wind by Marguerite HenrySeabiscuit by Laura HillenbrandMisty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Best Horse Books
454 books — 338 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,189 ratings  ·  715 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Hearts of Horses
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-gender, earth
I met Molly Gloss when I was in high school in Eastern Oregon, the setting for her beautiful novel, The Jump-off Creek. She was a local hero for the simple reason that she wrote about our world, our hills, our familiar tamarack forests and sagebrush, our quiet people and the lives they lead. In a state best known for Portland and the accessibility of natural wonder to the urban I-5 corridor, it was a refreshing bit of acknowledgment to see real - published! - art showing an interest in and sensitivity ...more
Dana Stabenow
Feb 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'd call this book almost a sequel to Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer, and I consider Monte Walsh one of the perfect novels. The writing is superb, in that run-on raconteur style that feels like the easy canter of a horse. It's 1917, and young Martha Leeson leaves home to become an itinerant bronco buster, only she's a horse whisperer instead and she doesn't get that far from home, either.

This book works on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin. It's a book about World War I at h
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a surprise! The cover is so off-putting, along with the title, that if it hadn't been given to me from the library just before I got on a plane with nothing else to read I probably wouldnt have looked at it twice. It's fabulous! There is none of the sappy, over emotionalized nonsense you might expect from a book about a woman who gentles horses in the early years of WWI. Instead, it's very well-written, with deep, extremely real characters in whom humanity truly exists. Molly Gloss takes th ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
It’s too bad about the title and cover. This is a lovely work of literary historical fiction, which happens to feature a protagonist who trains horses, but which neither anthropomorphizes nor is sentimental about them. Really it’s a story about the hearts of humans: how they live together and love one another. It’s the first winter of America’s involvement in WWI, and the shy but tough 19-year-old Martha Lessen arrives in a rural Oregon county looking for work. Which she finds gentling horses fo ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
I never would have looked twice at this book, had I not heard the author speak at MPIBA. Her speech, though it had nothing to do with the book, was impressive enough (and I heard enough people saying they couldn't put the book down) that I had to give it a chance. If the following description doesn't sound like your normal cup of tea, just know that it isn't mine, either. And yet.

The story takes place in the American West at the beginning of the first World War, when the young men we
Well, it's been proven: you can still write a novel with an omniscient narrator. I don't pretend that setting it in the historical past (the U.S. homefront during WWI) doesn't help, but it can obviously still be done, and done well.

Apart from settling that debate, The Hearts of Horses is an enjoyable read, more page-turning than its quiet, even-tempered tone would initially give you cause to guess. It may prompt you to chuckle in company, and, when pressed, explain lamely, "Just horses bei
Donna Jo Atwood
This is an absolutely amazing book. It takes place over a six month period from the fall of 1917 through the spring of 1918 in cattle country in Oregon. It's a wonderful story of a shy young woman, more at home with horses than people, who comes into the valley to offer to break horses for various farmers and ranchers. And, of course, it is the story of those ranchers and farmers that she meets.
Even with the background of the war and of the surfacing of human meanness, this is a gentle boo
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It would not be overstating things to say this book was a joy to read. I adored every minute with it, so much so that I had to dole it out to myself in nibbles because I just didn't want it to end. It's one of those books I love too much to write any kind of review of, so I'll just try to sensibly state what spoke to me about it.

Martha Lessen. A great, big-boned, awkward girl of a character, and I loved her. I loved her quiet confidence with the horses, I loved her insecurity with th
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-2015
This is a lovely, quiet book that reminds me of the late, great Kent Haruf's gems, and if that isn't sufficient praise, I don't know what is. The time and place are an important part of the story as well as the wonderful cast of characters
Ron Charles
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: westerns
Books about horses join a stable of well-loved titles foaled by Black Beauty in 1877. Over the years, Anna Sewell's only novel, which she called "the autobiography of a horse," has sold more than 50 million copies, and more recent titles, such as Nicholas Evans's "The Horse Whisperer," Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" and Jane Smiley's "Horse Heaven," have kept readers stampeding to the bookstore.

I don't know if Molly G
Ryan Jay
Jul 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
Molly Gloss certainly did a lot of research for this book. I have no doubt that she could actually write a fairly in-depth non-fiction work that deals with life in the western US states at this time. The only problem is that she seems unable to incorporate her exhaustive research into this work of fiction. The facts are never really part of the story, the narrator just tells the reader, as though they were reading a text book when the story of a girl breaking horses got a little dull for them. A ...more
Christian West
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 50-horses-2018
A young, tall girl breaks horses in a remote American town during World War 1.

This book was surprisingly good. The cover is blah, but I guess it's designed to appeal to young women who like horses, but the story of a young female horse-breaker who spends her time riding a horse circle and dealing with the people and relationships around her circle was interesting. The ending was a bit sudden though, it all wrapped up very quickly (view spoiler) ...more
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Much more substantial than the title or cover would lead you to believe.
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bought-copy, literary
In the winter of 1917, nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen saddles her horses and heads for a remote county in eastern Oregon looking for work "gentling" wild horses. Many of the regular hands are off fighting the war, and though the ranchers are sceptical of Martha's quiet, unconventional methods, it is clear that she has a serious knowledge of horses. Over the long, hard winter, the townsfolk witness Martha talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair - and getting miraculous, almo ...more
Jenny O
Dec 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women who dreamed of being cowgirls
I know it's a cliche to love horses when you're a twelve-year-old girl, but I did. After reading this book, I'm suddenly interested in horseback riding again. It's a beautiful story of independence and the connections that knit together families and communities. The writing is restrained, which fits with the setting nicely. I did skip over some of the description, but this book totally nails that fierce fear of loss that comes right along with love. It may have been more of a constant threat liv ...more
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Based on the title and cover, I would never have picked up this book if it hadn't been so highly recommended by a trustworthy friend. Don't be put off by the hokey Lonesome Dove cover--this book is completely engrossing.
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A quiet, but soul-filled book. A story about a changing land, a young woman who lives life on her own terms, and the people who come to be her family.
Altivo Overo
A well-researched and carefully written historical acount of life in the rural west during the years of the first World War, when livestock ranching was fading out in favor of farming on land not well suited to the latter. The Dust Bowl and the Great Depression were yet to come, though. Young men were signing up and departing to help fight the war in Europe, while neighbors looked askance and whispered behind the backs of long time residents who happened to be of German descent. Into this walks ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was skeptical of this book even though I have always been drawn to horses; I thought the book might be sappy or have a focus on describing the horses and their handling and using that as a pretense for a plot. But I found the book to be genuinely interesting, describing an area of the country that I'm slightly familiar with during an era I would never have thought to consider together. I liked the way the author made you feel the simultaneous distance and heaviness that World War I had in this ...more
Kathy Miner
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every once in a while, I read a book where I resonate so powerfully with the main character, I lose track of whether or not it’s well written, whether it reaches a satisfactory conclusion, or any other measures of literary merit. For me, The Heart of Horses was just such a book. Set in eastern Oregon during World War I, the story follows Martha, a young woman who trains horses and longs for a simpler, more “old-timey” life. This book so beautifully captures a time, a place, and the attitudes and ...more
Peggy Hayes
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m a horse lover, but the title “The Hearts of Horses,” is so trite it did not Intrigue me. But, the story about a sensitive young horse woman, Martha Lessen, and her passion for horses is beautifully written and touched MY heart! Set in Elwha, Oregon during WWI around 1918, unconventional and awkward Martha flees a bad home life and sets out alone to break and gentle horses. Her horse skills impress ranchers and homesteaders who help her find her way during the hardships of war. The poignant s ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Not just a story about a young woman who breaks horses in a unique way, this is also the stories of many rural families around the beginning of WWI who struggled with life. Something that stuck with me from this book was that of 4 million horses that went to Europe for WWI about 1 million died and the other 3 million, less a few that made it home, were butchered and ate by the refugees of the war.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was great! It was very relatable, I loved reading how she interacted with the horses from back then. It was detailed and an exiting read.
Beth Cato
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 w ...more
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This story of a young woman from an abusive family who becomes a horse tamer in rural Oregon is reminiscent of Willa Cather (O Pioneers; My Antonia) and Kent Haruf (Plainsong, Eventide) blended with Jane Smiley (Horse Heaven). The year is 1917. Gasoline powered vehicles and machines are just being introduced, electricity and indoor plumbing are far in the future, medicine is primitive, and the younger men (and many of the horses) are being sent to France to fight in WW I.
As Martha travels fro
Deb Bobdobolina
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book in one of those "little Free Library" houses in our neighborhood, hoping it wouldn't be too annoying (the cover did not bode well). After reading a few pages, I had to flip to the cover page to find out when it was written (2008).
For some reason, it had the "feel" of a book written in the 1920s, and reminded me of something by my hero, Willa Cather. For the rest of the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I tried to figure out why.
It might be the seemingly unvarnis
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horses
I accidentally read Falling from Horses: A Novel first, not realizing they were related. It didn't dampen my enthusiasm for either book. Molly Gloss is a lovely writer, detailing times and places long past. She manages to both romanticize the setting and lay bare the lives of those who were settled in the American west of the early twentieth century. She manages this with an omniscient narrative voice that harkens well to the time it is meant to evoke. Her horse details and her historical details are ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved it! I am a sucker for the bygone era when everything was so pure...and people had to really work hard for their livelihoods ...I just loved Martha...such a unusual leading lady...made me realise we live in such a fake world full of farcical relationships.
Nice work Molly!
Aug 12, 2016 rated it liked it
This book didn't really grab me right away, in spite of being about training horses, but I stuck with it. The circle ride was interesting to learn about and the history of the early 20th century in Oregon. I think Gloss tried to do too many things with the story, horses, intro of mechanization to farming, WWI, cancer, at the end she really fast forwarded Martha's life as if she was tired of telling the story and just wanted to be done. I'll send it on to Jane and her girls. I t ...more
Apr 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, western
Incredible book! Set during WWI, it's a coming of age story of a girl and the country. Very insightful.

My favorite quote is, "George didn't feel he had room in his life just now for worrying about what the rest of the world thought of the United States of America." And Martha's summation late in life that, "You know, honey, I guess we brought about the end of our cowboy dreams ourselves. It was a startling thing to hear herself say, but then she thought: Here I am in my old age and just at the
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Women in Eastern Oregon Horse Trainer [s] 3 18 Jan 24, 2015 04:10AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Chosen by a Horse
  • Shy Boy: The Horse That Came in from the Wild
  • Flying Changes (Riding Lessons, #2)
  • Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic
  • Almost
  • Wolves of Eden
  • Blind Beauty
  • Ruffian: Burning From the Start
  • Break In (Kit Fielding, #1)
  • Breaking Smith's Quarter Horse
  • Mrs. Fraser on the Fatal Shore
  • Songs for the Missing
  • Joey: How a Blind Rescue Horse Helped Others Learn to See
  • The Marriage Bargain (Regency House Party: Havencrest Book 5)
  • Rat Race
  • The Man Who Listens to Horses
  • The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation
  • Rosemary Opens Her Heart (Home at Cedar Creek, #2)
See similar books…
Molly Gloss is a fourth-generation Oregonian who lives in Portland.

Her novel The Jump-Off Creek was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for American Fiction, and a winner of both the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Oregon Book Award. In 1996 Molly was a recipient of a Whiting Writers Award.

The Dazzle of Day was named a New York Times Notable Book and was awarded t/>
“and heading for the next, running the first horse into the second corral, throwing the saddle on the next bronc and then heading down the line to the next place and the next until winding up back at the first place just about at” 0 likes
More quotes…