Friday, September 27, 2013

The Horse Whisperer: a Book Review

   I am so excited! Tonight is our famous little Oklahoma book club's discussion dinner of The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. True to our group's name, Dinner Club With a Reading Problem, a feast is planned. This time around our hostess is Amber and she has arranged a ranch-style dinner of cubed beef sandwiches and all the luscious trimmings. The rest of us ladies are bringing sides, desserts, and drinks. Last night I made Pioneer Woman's cilantro-jalapeno slaw, so it should be nice and flavorful by party time. Yum. I think Amber's theme is perfect for a story set mostly in the ranch-lands of Montana. Just perfect.

   I'll take photos tonight and share more about book club soon... For now, a quick book review.

   Sometimes I feel funny reviewing a piece of literature that is neither "classic" nor "new release," but this title deserves some praise anyway. And who knows? It could end up becoming a modern classic. To me, at least, that's how good it is.

   The Horse Whisperer is a complex and moving story told about believable characters whose lives all eventually revolve around one horse and his girl. Or one girl and her horse, however you look at it. Right at the start of the book, horse and rider together suffer a life-threatening accident and are forever changed. The events that precipitate had me hooked immediately. The stories are layered, and despite their beauty both in emotion and the senses, not without a lot of pain.

   Set primarily in the ranch-lands of Montana, a place I have never been except through the floriferous, enchanting descriptions written by Evans,  The Horse Whisperer is absolutely transporting. Evans uses the topography and unique gifts of the land there to convey several messages about the characters. And then he explores each character with really satisfying, but not exhausting, depth.
Two creeks ran through the Booker brothers' land and they gave the ranch its name, the Double Divide. They flowed from adjacent folds of the mountain front and in their first half mile they looked like twins. The ridge that ran between them here was low, at one point almost low enough for them to meet, but then it rose sharply in a rugged chain of interlocking bluffs, shouldering the creeks apart. Forced thus to seek their separate ways, they now became quite different.
   He lends the readers a glimpse of lifestyles we are unlikely to know ourselves, both the life of a fast-paced big-city editor and the grittier, more remote, but perhaps not so simple life of a full-time cowboy.

   Evans paints horses and horsemanship in the most honest and poetic light I have ever enjoyed. He illuminates the relationship between horse and man and leaves little room for doubt about what is at risk between the two, and what is available.
And though later he came pretending friendship, the alliance with man would ever be but fragile, for the fear he struck into their hearts was too deep to be dislodged.
   Then this...
"He's not going to look back if you don't," he said. "They're the most forgiving creatures God ever made." 
   The book offers romance, even passion and sex (making it unsuitable for young readers, although the horses may draw young readers in!), tumultuous parent-child struggles, questions about legacy and independence, survival, honesty, and of course healing. Redemption is huge in The Horse Whisperer. As the girl and horse who are so badly injured both begin to heal physically and emotionally, so do their attendant relationships. But nothing happens quite like I expected it to. The book is anything but formulaic. And I loved that. If you are able to successfully guess the ending without cheating, then you might be a psychic and should get your own television show.

If you aren't tempted yet by the story, then be tempted by the writing itself...
Some bounced back to dance in shimmering reflection on the ceiling, while the rest slanted through tot he bottom of the pool where it formed undulating patterns, like a colony of pale blue snakes that lived and died and were constantly reborn.
   A word of warning, and this goes beyond book-snobbery: The book is FAR DIFFERENT from the Robert Redford movie. They are two completely different experiences, as I am sure 100% of everyone who actually read the book will agree. I am not saying the movie is horrible... It is just not aligned with this book. It's more like, someone skimmed the book and threw in a few details just to hit a "similarities minimum." The ending is EXACTLY what most movie-watchers might expect or hope for. NOTHING like what the book throws at you. Which is an emotional sledgehammer.

   Okay, I hope you make time to read this book! Read it to open and cleanse old wounds. Read it to spark some hope for a hopeless situation. Read it to fantasize. Read it to broaden your cultural awareness. Read it to soak in poetry. Read it for fun.

   If you have already devoured The Horse Whisperer, what did you think? Spill your literary guts here!

   Now I must be on my way. I have an ice chest to pack, teeth to brush, and a clean t-shirt to slip on. Famous little Oklahoma book club awaits!

"No. But you see, Annie, where there's pain,
 there's still feeling.
 And where there's feeling, there's hope."





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