27 May

Response to: The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss

I’m not much of a Western lit reader (maybe one ever few years), but my mother’s family is from E. Oregon (Baker, Pondosa, La Grande, Pendleton), with many surviving friends who are ranchers, farmers, or townspeople. My maternal grandmother left home at 17 in the late 1920’s and worked for three years gentling horses using techniques similar to those in Hearts of Horses. I’ve spent many years in many seasons on vacation (from W. Oregon) tromping, driving, fishing, and hunting in the land around Elwha county, and buried my grandfather on a butte in Union county. I’ve read Gloss’s other novels (with relish, hearty chutney-style) and so I bought this book–“for my mother.” Who finished it in a few days, then shoved it back at me and said, you need to read it. And, now that I’m done, I can’t think of when I’ve been so rewarded by a book as I have with this slow story (slow like honey dripping, not slow like water set to boil) about people and community and hearts and the land. And horses. Maybe my background makes me a perfect target audience for this book–you could say that I loved the book because the people and land resonated with my experiences and those of my family, but I would not have loved it less otherwise, and hated to see it end. It could have been longer–twice as long–and I would have been doubly satisfied. I read much of it on the commuter train to work every day and there were parts that made me turn to the window away from other passengers–a difficult situation for a grown man on public transport. I also laughed out loud in places. If you buy, borrow, or steal this book, you’ll have a true story in your hands–I’ll let you work out the parts that are true, but it’s very likely that your heart will inform your head.

(Yep, that’s it, no plot rehash, just a direct response to the novel. You can find plenty of details at Amazon, Powell’s, and other bookseller sites.)