Sunday, June 06, 2010

Book 7: A Good Horse

A Good HorseA Good Horse by Jane Smiley.  Knopf, 2010.

The Georges and the JewelsThis is a WONDERFUL  horse story.  I loved every part of it.  I have not read The Georges and the Jewels but I am going to find it  ASAP. 

Abby Lovitt is a natural rider. She works hard on her family's California ranch where her parents train and trade horses.  Abby knows that most of the horses are not there forever but she loves them, especially Jack a beautiful gelding which she is is training herself.  

Jack's origins are called into question when the Lovitts receive a letter from a private investigator,  who is tracing the whereabouts of four mares that were stolen from a ranch in Texas. As the PI shares more and more information, the family realizes they may own a foal sired by the champion Jaipur.

Meanwhile, Abby is training a jumper Black George, another of the Lovitt horses.
This book is a horse lover's dream. There are detailed descriptions of the techniques of jumping and training horses in general.  Smiley deftly weaves in rich background on equine conformation, equipment, jodhpurs, riding boots, ranch life and horse care.

I must also make mention of the exquisite pen and ink drawings by Elaine Clayton that begin each chapter.  She as created detailed illustrations of equestrian equipment, tools, and apparel. There are precise renderings of different jumps, saddles, stirrups, boot hooks and hoof picks. 

Abby balances her school life and social life with her responsibilities at home.   Her family belongs to a Christian church that meets for many hours on Sunday  Her parents tithe and do not work on the Sabbath.  We learn that they do not own a television or attend movies.  Some  authors present parents with deep Christian beliefs like this as narrow minded, judgmental and unfair.  It is so easy to fall back on  the "rebellious teen vs  holy rollers" plot device but Smiley does not go there in this book.  There are issues in the family as a rift with Abby's brother has clearly developed because of her parents' beliefs but I have not read her earlier book about the family. 

I appreciated though, that Smiley does not mock these parents.  They are trying to balance their beliefs and Abby's needs.  Many teens participate in worship services and have a deep faith.  It is encouraging to find a  book where this is not depicted as something aberrant or sinister.

Interesting, now that I ponder it, that faith is an element in three of the books I finished during this challenge:  Bamboo People, Taken and A Good Horse

My copy of A Good Horse is an arc I picked up at TLA

Reading time for this book:  4 hrs
Pages: 246
Blogging/reviewing time:  1 hr.

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