First I must fess up that Gloss gets extra points here because of the locale of the story. She has claimed northeast Oregon as her stomping grounds, inventing Elwha County from the wheat lands and foothills of the region just as deftly as Faulkner invented and claimed Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. More important, she gets it right, and grants this reader multiple little thrills of recognition throughout the narrative.
That said, you dont have to know Canyon City from the Grand Canyon to relish this honest tale of a young woman choosing her own way in WWI-era Oregon. Martha Lessen casts off from her Pendleton home, determined to make her own way in an amalgam of youthful fantasies of a West that never was, mingled with a set of real-life skills in horse-taming that runs counter to the rope-em-and-bust-em philosophy of the era.
Along the way, she meets and becomes part of the lives of various small ranchers and wheat farmers in this still-raw country where aging homesteaders and the adult children of homesteaders mingle uneasily with newcomers trying and sometimes failing to bend the land to their will.
Gloss writes like shes the love-child of Sandra Dallas and Cormac McCarthy, with a spare and open style and a clear understanding of the hearts of her characters two-footed as well as four-footed. The majority of them are beautifully and realistically drawn, and even the horses become individuals, without falling into Disneyesque anthropomorphism.
Elwha County is a place you want to visit, and the only quibble I have with the book is that Gloss seems reluctant to leave it, as the last couple of chapters seem superfluous and are definitely anticlimactic.
Overall, this quickly-read novel is as welcoming as a warm kitchen on a winter day, and almost as hard to leave.
Reviewed by LadyJay for TeensReadToo.com
It is the winter of 1917, and the United States has finally aligned itself with the allies of World War I. Times are hard. Young men are being shipped overseas at an alarming rate. Ranchers and farmers are scrambling to find adequate help. They must settle for older hired hands and young women looking for work.
Nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen has left her family in search of such work; specifically, horses that need "gentling." She makes her way to Eastern Oregon territory and sets up a circle with several horses that need breaking. During her stay in Elwha County, Martha becomes a part of the ranchers and farmers lives. She learns their secrets and listens to their stories. The female broncobuster who wished only to tame horses becomes a part of their community.
THE HEARTS OF HORSES has a quiet profoundness about it. Readers will not find anything flashy about this story, and in this time of thirty-second sound bytes and fast-food media, that sounds just fine. Gloss' main character is a worthy protagonist. A sturdily built young woman who has dreamed of the places mentioned in Western romance novels, she only wishes to roam free amongst her horses. It is a beautiful, poignant story that many people will enjoy reading.
Horse lovers will be especially drawn to the novel because of the care that Gloss takes while describing each animal and his/her temperament. Take the time to read this tale of a female horse whisperer - it will not disappoint.
I was initially drawn to this book because it has "horses" in the title, but it turned out to be very engaging. It takes place during WW 1 in a small western town where a young woman arrives looking for work breaking horses. She finds the work, and the descriptions of her work with horses are wonderful. In addition, all of the people she meets are unique and interesting, as are the changes and growth that she experiences. The characters ring very true to life and true to the era. I really enjoyed the book.
This is a wonderful book about life in rural Oregon during WWI. The main character, Martha Lessen, is a young cowgirl searching for work breaking horses "to saddle." As the story opens, she is itinerant, but she is taken in by a family and eventually by a community. This story portrays kindness and friendship as critical glue for the survival of both individuals and their community. An absorbing book, but also a quick read.
Great book. You will not be able to put it down.