Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Book Review-The Hearts of Horses

I enjoy good books, as does anyone who is an avid reader. I've been a reader all my life. From time to time I'll share my thoughts and recommend horse related books, fiction and nonfiction, that I have read and personally liked.

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
I read this novel over a year ago but the title and the story has stayed with me. I think I found the title in one of my horse magazines before I started looking for it. I tried the local library first. I actually found this book at our local library, which surprised me. When I worked there as a librarian manager, ordering books for my branch library, I was usually the one ordering animal and horse related titles. When I found this one, I was happy to know maybe someone else took up my cause after I left.

At first I was afraid the story would be unbelieveable. The story centers around 19 year old Martha Lessen who decides to leave home to travel the areas around rural Oregon as a horse trainer. At the time, 1917, most men had gone off to WWI, there was no one to train the horses for the work that needed to be done. Gloss manages to keep the story real and believeable throughout.

Martha's methods of training horses are different from the customary rough "break 'em" techniques the horsemen of the era used. She uses soft words and songs along with patience to train horses.

Martha is not a "girl's girl". She wears men's clothes. Sleeps in the bunkhouses or barns where she worked. The women could not relate to her for the most part. She could not relate to them either. She roughed out her days in all kinds of weather to get her job done and prove herself to those who doubted her work. Martha is quiet, keeps to herself. She is more comfortable dealing with horses all day than chatting in the kitchen with the women. Martha doesn't come across as completely "manish" as you might think. After reading along for awhile you get the feel she's a young woman who chooses a different way of life during a period of time when women are not accepted in the male role she had taken on.

Gloss's characters come across as believeable, down-to-earth and real. Personally, I have to connect with the characters before I can enjoy a book and with this one, I did. It has become one of my favorite books!

The story moves along methodically but the feelings and emotions come across gently, at times. Martha's inner strength and sheer will are apparent. As her life begins to entertwine with the different families she works for along the way, she finds herself becoming a part of them, and also respected, in a way she never expected.

There is a little romance as Martha finds the attentions of Henry awkward for her, but she tries to become, for one evening, a "girl". She soon learns that she is happier when she is accepted for who she is rather than trying to be someone she isn't, something she really already knew in her heart.

I found the horse parts touching as well. Realistic, without being overbearing or too gentle to the point of being fluff. Just right for those of us who love and respect horses, as Martha did, but also realize the nature of horse training in the early 1900's and what was expected from the horses as an end result.

The Hearts of Horses is a great read for women of all ages. I think young women and teens would enjoy this empowering novel.


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