Book Reviews: Horse Stories to Inspire

— by Maurine Barnett, from —

This month, reviewer Maurine Barnett presents her choices for books about horses. She says in her introduction: “I missed the phase of life known as pre-teen-girl-becomes-horse-crazy. Well, I am finally and happily blooming into that phase at almost 70, after moving to a new location where rescued horses and donkeys come with the property.”

[Editor’s note: Not all of the books will make you cry.]

Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley

This one has an erotic love scene too!

This one has an erotic love scene too!

In case you have not read any of Smiley’s excellent books, I recommend this very accessible and lively story set in the thoroughbred horse racing mileau of Southern California. Smiley never seems to write the same story twice–her novels are varied and fully developed. She clearly knows the world of horses and horse racing more than most, and I learned a lot while being entertained. The novel is Dickensonian in scope and story–it’s over 600 pages, with a cast of 50 characters, one of the best being a Jack Russell terrier! And as an added bonus, what I remember most is that this story includes one of the most erotic love scenes I have ever read–but no spoiler from me–you’ll have to find those pages for yourself.

The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss

An Island favorite by Molly Gloss

An Island favorite by Molly Gloss

We have sold so many copies of this book at Darvill’s, I would be surprised if you don’t already own it; it is a long-time staff favorite. Set in Eastern Oregon in 1917, at a time when local men were going off to war, a young Martha Lessen showed up at the Bliss’s ranch looking for work breaking horses. George, the ranch owner, thinks he sees something unique in the shy 19 year old and gives her a chance. She has a serious intelligence, and gentle way with the most recalcitrant animals, a style we have come to know as a “horse whisperer”. This style earns her both new friends and an enemy in the form of another ranch hand who is abusive and insensitive. This story lacks the sentimentality and sappiness of many an animal story–fiction or not. Instead, Gloss has told a story both familiar and fresh, with a wry wit to boot. It is a real winner!

(To read all Maurine’s reviews, go to

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