Kurt Kremer, May 27, 2009 (view all comments by Kurt Kremer)
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 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 going 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--I'd argue that I loved the book more because the people and land resonated with my experiences and those of my family, but 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.
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Eilonwy, May 13, 2008 (view all comments by Eilonwy)
_The Hearts of Horses_ is an enjoyable read, more page-turning than its quiet, even-tempered tone would initially give you cause to guess. It may prompt you to chuckle in company, and, when pressed, explain lamely, "Just horses being horses." It gives you a sense of these animals, these people, and even this country, even though they are invented from hoof to hillock.
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cooperstory, April 27, 2008 (view all comments by cooperstory)
In 1917, 19-year-old Martha leaves home looking for work breaking horses. Gloss does a wonderful job presenting the people of Elway County, Oregon, and the joys and hardships of ranch life.
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Teresa Vaughan, March 20, 2008 (view all comments by Teresa Vaughan)
The Hearts of Horses is an engaging look into small town life at the turn of the last century, when the U.S. was entering into WWI. (It has a sort of Waltons feel to it.) At 20, Martha leaves an unhappy home to practice her passion: bronc busting--rather out of line with the gender roles of the time. She puts up in the barn of a local couple, and we get introduced to many of the ranchers and farmers as Martha works their horses. I really enjoyed the flavor of Molly Gloss' writing; there is an honesty to it that I find refreshing.
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bscheldt, November 16, 2007 (view all comments by bscheldt)
This book takes place during WW I and shows the hardships, worry, and prejudices that go along with war. It's also a story of a woman's intuitive way to tame the horses of people living in a frontier community and how each of these people touch her life in one way or another.
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Houghton Mifflin Company -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Gloss's austere latest (after Wild Life) features a wandering taciturn tomboy who finds her place in rural Oregon while the men are away at war. After she leaves home in 1917, 19-year-old Martha Lessen plans to travel from farm to farm in Elwha County, Oregon, breaking horses left behind by owners away fighting. She winds up in small town Shelby, where farmers George and Louise Bliss convince her to stay the winter with them after she domesticates their broncos with soft words and songs instead of lariats and hobbles. While breaking the town's horses, Martha meets a slovenly drunk, a clan of Western European immigrants and two unmarried sisters running a ranch with the help of an awkward, secretive teenager. When Martha's not making the rounds or riding through the Clarks Range, Louise tries her hand at socializing (or, perhaps, breaking) her, but Martha chafes at town dances, social outings and Louise's hand-me-down church dresses. Gloss's narrative is sometimes as slow as Martha's progress with the more recalcitrant beasts, but following stubborn, uncompromising Martha as she goes about her work provides its own unique pleasures." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Amy Bloom, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You,
"A shining example of Molly Gloss' gifts."
by Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong,
"Gloss has...a permanent place on the shelf of American literature [featuring] smart, independent women."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Gloss...offers an acutely observed, often lyrical portrayal that mirrors ourown era and, title notwithstanding, has as much to say about people as about horses."
"[A] delightfully down-home, matter-of-fact voice."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Gloss' intimacy with the landscape and ranch life is conveyed beautifully in particulars and small observations."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Gloss stitches together not so much a plot, more an assembly of parallel tales connected by unceasing labor and then by the additional demands of the war."
by Seattle Times,
"It's an Oregon of the mind Gloss takes her readers to, one that evanesces with her narrator's imaginary breath."
An elegant, heartwarming story about the profound connections between people and animals
In the winter of 1917, nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen saddles her horses and heads for a remote county in eastern Oregon, looking for work “gentling” wild horses. She chances on a rancher, George Bliss, who is willing to hire her on. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath her showy rodeo garb, a shy but strong-willed girl with a serious knowledge of horses. So begins the irresistible tale of a young but determined woman trying to make a go of it in a mans world. Over the course of several long, hard winter months, many of the townsfolk witness Martha talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair—getting miraculous, almost immediate results. It's with this gift that she earns their respect, and a chance to make herself a home.
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