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I have little enough to say, and even less worth reading.

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Michelle Cohen Corasanti
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Molly Gloss

The Hearts of Horses

The Hearts of Horses - Molly Gloss

Not what I expected, which is probably good given the somewhat cloying title. It's a little hard to explain why I enjoyed this book, as there's historical exposition interspersed throughout (often begun with "In those days..."), not a great deal of character development, and little of an identifiable plot. The premise of 19-year-old Martha Lessen gentling horses in eastern Oregon in 1917 is largely a device to introduce us to the lives of a community of people. But the author doesn't restrict herself to Martha's point of view, even within a single page, so you get these stark, sometimes startling glimpses into the hearts of people as well. The straightforward prose doesn't demand that you admire or pity or envy the characters, it only presents what is, what always is: people experience worry and laughter and grief and joy, and for most life goes on.


In a solipsist modern culture obsessed with texting and "reality" TV, it was refreshing to read a subtle story about empathy. So perhaps in some ways the novel IS told from Martha's point of view, as we perceive in her world a quiet dignity because that is in her own nature.


At the same time that I found the book affecting, I was occasionally amazed at a moment's intuition about a character and would find myself rereading a deceptively simple passage to figure out what Gloss had done to give me that insight. There's the old "show, don't tell" principle for writers, but sometimes I couldn't even figure out what she had shown me that made everything so clear in instant.


Add to that that I finished it in a couple days (and we're talking work days, not even a weekend), and I'd have to call it an understated page-turner.