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Publisher's Summary

In the winter of 1917, a big-boned young woman shows up at George Bliss's doorstep. She's looking for a job breaking horses, and he hires 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 19-year-old Martha Lessen, a female horse whisperer trying to make a go of it in a man's world. It was thought that the only way to break a horse was to buck the wild out of it, and broken ribs and tough falls just went with the job. But over several long, hard winter months, many of the townsfolk in this remote county of eastern Oregon witness Martha's way of talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair---and getting miraculous, almost immediate results---and she thereby earns a place of respect in the community.
Along the way, Martha helps a family save their horses when their wagon slides into a ravine. She gentles a horse for a dying man---a last gift to his young son. She clashes with a hired hand who is abusing horses in unspeakable ways. Soon, despite her best efforts to remain aloof and detached, she comes to feel enveloped by a sense of community and family that she's never had before.
With the elegant sweetness of Plainsong and a pitch-perfect sense of western life reminiscent of Annie Dillard, The Hearts of Horses is a remarkable story about how people and animals make connections and touch each other's lives in the most unexpected and profound ways.
©2007 Molly Gloss (P)2009 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Julie W. Capell on 11-08-09

Simple, Honest, Wonderful

Simple, honest, wonderful portrayal of life in the American West in the pre-WWI years. Yes, the main character is a young girl who defies female stereotypes of the times to follow her dream, but the many side characters are fully fleshed out with large passages devoted to their lives in this hardscrabble world. Yes, there are details of how this girl broke horses using love and kindness rather than brute force, but there are many other interesting details of life in Oregon's interior that were equally as interesting.

If I had to compare this book to anything, it would be to the James Herriott books about a country vet in Yorkshire, England. Like Herriott, Gloss obviously knows her subject matter inside and out and loves the people and places she is describing, and the reader soon loves them, too. Also like the Herriott books, Gloss tells her story in a series of related, chronological vignettes, rather than in a tightly plotted novel with a clear central conflict, climax, etc.

The reader was perfectly chosen for this book. Her slightly scratchy voice and barely-perceptible twang really brought Martha, the protagonist, and all her fellow Oregonians to life. All of which made for a gentle novel that was beautifully simple and therefore eminently enjoyable and memorable.

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Alice on 07-20-09

Captures the love of horses

If you love horses and can relate to the "gentle-method" of horse breaking, this book effectively draws one into the story. The narrator is soft spoken and captures the spirit of this book. The book is not fast paced or action packed. However, the rythymn and narration draws one into the gentler side of life. I especially liked this book when my days have been hectic. I was drawn into the story and the characters. I looked forward to the book being very soothing and a great way to listen and relax. I would highly recommend if you have worked around horses or if you want to get an indoctrination into the horse culture from someone with good "horse sense!"

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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