Friday, October 1, 2010

Riding Lessons - Sara Gruen

This is the story of Annemarie Zimmer. At 18 years of age, she was a world class rider, who suffered a very serious fall from her much loved horse, Harry. This was no ordinary horse. It was a rare white striped gelding. Unfortunately, as a result of this tragic accident, Harry must be destroyed and Annemarie refuses to return to riding.

The novel begins twenty years after this incident. She has returned to her childhood home, a horse farm which is on the brink of bankruptcy. She has lost her job, her father is gravely ill, and her daughter is going through teenage growing pains. Sara Gruen is a masterful writer. She takes what could on the surface appear to be soap-operatic and weaves a realistic and touching story. She seems to have a natural ability to create images which are tightly tied to character.

"The scene is pure bucolic perfection: the horses, fat and dappled, grazing in an expanse of pasture against a backdrop of indigo sky. A breeze rustles lightly through the surrounding maples, their leaves parted occasionally by the darting streak of birds. The sky, bright and blue and full of the noise of cicadas, crickets, sparrows, finches, and a single Carolina chickadee. I can relate to that chickadee. I, too, should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque.
It may look perfect, but I know the truth. Just beneath the surface, as tangible as the wood under my arms, is a pain as relentless as a toothache." p. 293

Although it has been over thirty years that I have crawled onto a horse's back, and although I have never lived on a farm, I loved this novel and look forward to reading Flying Changes which continues Annemarie Zimmer's story.

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