From the author of Veronica, a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, comes Mary Gaitskill's most poignant and powerful work yet: the story of a Dominican girl, the white woman who introduces her to riding, and the horse who changes everything for her.
Velveteen Vargas is an 11-year-old from Brooklyn who is granted a summer vacation in the country, courtesy of the nonprofit Fresh Air Fund. Her host family is a couple in upstate New York: Ginger, a failed artist on the fringe of Alcoholics Anonymous; and Paul, an academic who wonders what it will mean to "make a difference" in such a contrived situation. Here we see the couple's changing relationship with Velvet over the course of several years as well as Velvet's powerful encounter with the horses at the stable down the road, as Gaitskill weaves together Velvet's vital inner-city community and the privileged country world of Ginger and Paul.
The timeless story of a girl and a horse is joined with the story of people from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds trying to meet one another honestly. It is a novel that is raw, striking, and completely original.
"Four excellent narrators tell Velvet's story through various points of view in alternating chapters. Each narrator perfectly defines the complexities of the character being portrayed, while showing different sides of Velvet - often not flattering." (AudioFile)
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Give These Characters a Swift Punch in the Face!
As someone who loved horse stories of all varieties as a kid, I was eager to listen to this retelling of "National Velvet." But the novel is a misstep. All of the characters were unpalatable, perhaps most so the heroine, Velvet, who is an unqualified brat.
That said, the book has its moments, and its narrators went above and beyond. They gave the book life, even if the author did not. The woman who read Ginger should get an award.
But unless you want to spend hours with your hands balled into fists, wishing you could punch characters who are infuriatingly obtuse, unthankful, or downright crazy, I'd suggest you stay away from this book.
- Mark "MTF"