As a born and bred Easterner, I find something alluring and mysterious about the American West. This book transported me there, with a look back at at the western home front during World War I. Molly Gloss did a great job of capturing small town, rural life in Oregon ranching country in 1917.
The story follows Martha Lessen, a 19-year-old horse wrangler, who travels a circuit from ranch to ranch gentling wild horses. The reader meets and gets to know shy Martha as she uses her own sweet way of communicating with horses, and as time goes on, we get to know her neighbors’ stories, too.
It begins with Martha’s theories of how best to work with the horses, which stem mostly from her own rough childhood. We see her slowly forming relationships with her horses, her neighbors, and finally with one man in particular.
Along with Martha’s story we learn about life out west during the early 1900s: the dangers of diseases that had no treatment, and societal problems such as abuse (of both animals and humans) and addiction. Gloss also raises the issue of bigotry and prejudice against people deemed “our enemy” during times of war. There’s a lot for book groups to discuss.
I am not a “horse person,” but I enjoyed the sections of the book where we see Martha relating to and training her horses. And, I found it interesting that the main character, like many pioneering and rural women, followed her own path, and not the stereotypical one.
This story would be enjoyed by anyone who likes historical fiction, animals, and even a little romance. I listened to the audio version and although some may not like the narrator, I enjoyed it more and more as the story went on.
I highly recommend this book.
Check the WRL catalog for The Hearts of Horses
Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of The Hearts of Horses
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