Let's divert from health news for one post and talk about a different type of health. What better spring cleaning for the cobwebs of your mind than a good book? And I recently found not one, but TWO new bound-for-glory novels with horses in the foreground. And one more that has already made it to the bestseller list!
First is Robert Olmstead's Coal Black Horse, the Civil War tale of a young boy being sent to the battlefield at Gettysburg astride a black pony that a neighbor bequeaths him. He's not a soldier; he's looking for his father.
You read details of one of the bloodiest days of US history with the sidebar metaphor of the boy trying to keep the pony out of trouble and going straight.
But of course, the real story is that it is the pony that is in charge, and he's protecting the boy. Coal Black Horse caught my eye in the bookstore for all the wrong reasons: the pony on the front cover is wearing a flash noseband. Not exactly your basic Civil War tack. But the premise of this book is epic, and the reviews are all good.
This would make a great Father's Day gift (after you've read it yourself, course).
Olmstead's book is from Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, one of the best publishers in business today, in my opinion. They also published horse author Sara Gruen's latest book, Water for Elephants, which made it onto the NY Times' bestseller list and has stayed there for 22 weeks and counting, last I knew.
It's the story of a veterinary student in the Depression who quits college right before the final exam and joins the circus, where his veterinary skills come in handy. But he loses his heart to the horse trainer, and we learn a lot about what "at liberty" can mean.
Sara's success (WFE has over 200,000 copies in print!) means that two of her earlier horse novels, Riding Lessons and Flying Changes have been re-issued in paperback.
Sara Gruen introduced me to brindled horses--and that will be the subject of a separate post here someday.
Last but certainly not least, who can resist picking up a book with a title like The God of Animals in the bookstore? I heard an interview with author Aryn Kyle on NPR the other day. I've read quite a bit of this novel already. It is the story of a young Colorado girl's struggle to find reality growing up at a boarding stable owned by her parents. While the family lives in poverty and the girl is sadly neglected by her parents, the boarders and their expensive horses tell another tale, that wealth is not quite the answer to happiness. And the horses that are the common ground between the have's and have-not's is where the drama unfolds. This is a first novel.
Here's an example from the first few pages of The God of Animals from Simon and Schuster:
>>My father was being kind when he said I didn't have the temperament for showing, because what he meant was that I didn't have the talent. I couldn't remember to smile and keep my heels down and my toes in and my elbows tight and my back straight all at the same time. When I focused on smiling, I dropped my reins, and when I thought about sitting up straight, my feet slipped out of the stirrups. My father said that he needed me more outside the ring anyway, but I saw how it was. We had a reputation to maintain and a livelihood to earn. In the end, I wasn't good for business.
But Nona was good enough for both of us. She smiled and laughed and winked at the judges. Outside the ring she would let little girls from the stands sit on her horse. While she showed them how to hold the reins and where to put their feet, she would aim her voice at their parents and say, "You're a natural!" Then she would flash her smile at the mother and say, "My daddy gives lessons. You all should come out sometime."<<
To learn more about these novels:
Sara Gruen's personal web site (lots of inspiration for good horse writing and you can see the closet where she wrote a bestseller on her laptop!)
Simon and Schuster's posted excerpt from The God of Animals
If you possibly can, please purchase or order these books from an independent bookseller, since your tack shop is not likely to carry fiction books and we need to support good booksellers. Three reliable sources you can Google or 411 are Robin Bledsoe Bookseller in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Taborton Books in New York State; and Knight Equestrian Books in Edgecomb, Maine. Look for Robin's booth at the Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio this weekend!