Over the long, hard winter, the townsfolk witness Martha talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair - and getting miraculous, almost immediate results. Ultimately, her gifts will earn her the respect of the men, the friendship of the women, and an indispensable place in the community. This is a beautiful tale told in a simple manner.
The prose is no-nonsense and yet somehow poetic at the same time. It is well worth picking up, even if you have little interest in Westerns or horses. For me, the particular joy came from individual chapters that seemed to be almost short stories in their own right, telling tales about the ranchers on Martha's 'horse-circle'. Particular tales that touched my heart included Ruth and Tom Kandel concerning Tom's fight against cancer and the Thiede's, who are German-born, which becomes an issue as the shadow of World War 1 falls over the county.
Glass writes effectively and without sentiment about the hard lives of the ranchers, many of whom flocked to Oregon in the hopes of making their fortunes. There is heartache, and pathos, and engaging characters on every page. Glass also offers us a perspective on the world outside the quiet Western county that Martha plies her trade in - Martha finds work because many of the young men have already been drafted into the army.
She covers such sensitive topics as racism, terminal illness, and environmental destruction with grace and quiet commentary. The overwhelming impression of this novel is peace: It is an uncomplicated and ephemeral look at a long-gone time from history. Jul 29, Ryan Jay rated it did not like it. Molly Gloss certainly did a lot of research for this book.
I have no doubt that she could actually write a fairly in-depth non-fiction work that deals with life in the western US states at this time. The only problem is that she seems unable to incorporate her exhaustive research into this work of fiction. The facts are never really part of the story, the narrator just tells the reader, as though they were reading a text book when the story of a girl breaking horses got a little dull for them. A Molly Gloss certainly did a lot of research for this book.
And for this reader, this story got very dull, very quickly. Nothing in here is engaging, the characters are flat, and reading it was a definite chore. Another, smaller complaint is her use of punctuation. Gloss writes as though she doesn't understand the use of commas, though, having her read passages of this book as well as speak, it's clear that she is very intentional with her sentence pacing. In any case, it is extremely irritating. Dec 30, Jenny O rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: I know it's a cliche to love horses when you're a twelve-year-old girl, but I did. After reading this book, I'm suddenly interested in horseback riding again.
It's a beautiful story of independence and the connections that knit together families and communities. The writing is restrained, which fits with the setting nicely. I did skip over some of the description, but this book totally nails that fierce fear of loss that comes right along with love. It may have been more of a constant threat liv I know it's a cliche to love horses when you're a twelve-year-old girl, but I did.
It may have been more of a constant threat living a hundred years ago in the West, but it's still a universal tension. But it's also a story about a young woman who refuses to marry and travels around training horses! Amy gave this book to me for Christmas. Jan 09, Chalet rated it really liked it. Based on the title and cover, I would never have picked up this book if it hadn't been so highly recommended by a trustworthy friend.
Don't be put off by the hokey Lonesome Dove cover--this book is completely engrossing. A well-researched and carefully written historical acount of life in the rural west during the years of the first World War, when livestock ranching was fading out in favor of farming on land not well suited to the latter.
The Dust Bowl and the Great Depression were yet to come, though. Young men were signing up and departing to help fight the war in Europe, while neighbors looked askance and whispered behind the backs of long time residents who happened to be of German descent. Into this walks A well-researched and carefully written historical acount of life in the rural west during the years of the first World War, when livestock ranching was fading out in favor of farming on land not well suited to the latter.
Into this walks nineteen year old Martha, a tomboyish girl who wants to be a horse wrangler and already has much of the skill needed to do it. In a time of strong women standing in for the men who went off to war or in a few cases, husbands who were weak and victims of alcoholism or sickness, she gradually finds her place among the ranchers, farmers, and their hired helpers. Martha learns a great deal about human kindness, responsibility, prejudice, and weakness, as well as discovering that even a would be cowgirl can find love if she opens herself to the possibility. A fine read with many high and low points as well as a nicely wrapped up conclusion.
May 28, Jennifer rated it it was amazing. I was skeptical of this book even though I have always been drawn to horses; I thought the book might be sappy or have a focus on describing the horses and their handling and using that as a pretense for a plot. But I found the book to be genuinely interesting, describing an area of the country that I'm slightly familiar with during an era I would never have thought to consider together.
I liked the way the author made you feel the simultaneous distance and heaviness that World War I had in this I was skeptical of this book even though I have always been drawn to horses; I thought the book might be sappy or have a focus on describing the horses and their handling and using that as a pretense for a plot. I liked the way the author made you feel the simultaneous distance and heaviness that World War I had in this rural area; how in spite of how remote the war was to the characters, it came to impact their interactions with one another, bringing distrust and dislike to neighbors that echoed into the future depending on the enemy of the time.
But all of that is the background to the story of Martha, a young woman more comfortable in the company of horses than of people.
The Hearts of Horses has ratings and reviews. Lara said: I met Molly Gloss when I was in high school in Eastern Oregon, the setting for her bea. The Hearts of Horses [Molly Gloss] on bahana-line.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. An elegant, heartwarming story about the profound connections .
Her story is lovely; it's one of finding her place in this corner of the world through her work with the horses of those who live there. Through her we get to know the characters of the county, too. For me, The Heart of Horses was just such a book. This book so beautifully captures a time, a place, and the attitudes and connections of a people, and it is well written, elegant and eloquent. For me, though, it comes back to the character of Martha, who lives and breathes in my mind now. Her desire to live in rhythm with the seasons, with the animals she loves, to live immersed in and harmonized with nature - I get that.
I get that completely. A lovely book, which I highly recommend. Jul 13, Debbi rated it liked it. Not just a story about a young woman who breaks horses in a unique way, this is also the stories of many rural families around the beginning of WWI who struggled with life. Something that stuck with me from this book was that of 4 million horses that went to Europe for WWI about 1 million died and the other 3 million, less a few that made it home, were butchered and ate by the refugees of the war.
Apr 10, Anne rated it it was amazing Shelves: A quiet, but soul-filled book. A story about a changing land, a young woman who lives life on her own terms, and the people who come to be her family. May 06, Zoe rated it it was amazing. This book was great! It was very relatable, I loved reading how she interacted with the horses from back then.
It was detailed and an exiting read. Nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen rides into Elwha County with a string of horses and a dream of making her way as a horse gentler. In ranch and farm country depleted of young men heading off to war, Martha finds an unusual niche as she begins making her rounds training horses in a circuit. Her unusual garb and ways with horses are a spectacle to behold, but slowly, Martha's soothing w As the United States enters World War I, the final remnants of the Old West can still be found in eastern Oregon. Her unusual garb and ways with horses are a spectacle to behold, but slowly, Martha's soothing ways show results with her horses--and in the families she encounters.
The third-person omniscient narrator knows all, referring to events far in the future and beyond the scope of the book, even going so far far as to mention when some folks die; that jolted me out of the story more than once. Martha is the main character, but the story follows a varied cast of very real people. Actually, I would say this is one of the finest books I've read as far as creating genuine characters.
Everyone and everything about this book grew on me as I read. As the blurbs at the front said, the title may say it' s about the hearts of horses but it's really about the hearts of humans, too. Martha is slow and awkward in her conversations as the book begins, relating to horses better than people. Her maturity is beautiful to behold. I've read a lot of books. Some make me tear up. I read at the end that the author's husband died and she stopped writing for three years until she started on this book.
I think that single chapter channels much of her grief, and it's absolutely devastating. I hope it touches you as it did me. Feb 08, Deb Bobdobolina rated it it was amazing. I picked up this book in one of those "little Free Library" houses in our neighborhood, hoping it wouldn't be too annoying the cover did not bode well.
After reading a few pages, I had to flip to the cover page to find out when it was written For some reason, it had the "feel" of a book written in the s, and reminded me of something by my hero, Willa Cather. For the rest of the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I tried to figure out why. It might be the seemingly unvarnished prose, w I picked up this book in one of those "little Free Library" houses in our neighborhood, hoping it wouldn't be too annoying the cover did not bode well.
It might be the seemingly unvarnished prose, which managed to be lyrical and heartfelt in its simplicity. It might be the heroine of the book, a young woman named Martha, who we find out is innocent and idealistic under her tough, rather odd exterior she dresses in "old-fashioned cowboy trappings"--chaps and a big old cowboy hat, as she travels around Oregon to break horses.
It might be that it is set in the first years of WWI, and that the countryside is still rough. It might be that most of the people Martha runs into are essentially decent and kind in a more modern-feeling book, I think Martha would be prey to all sorts of meanness. The author also doesn't sugar-coat life in those days; babies and grown men die from eating improperly canned food, some men beat their horses, a man suffers horribly and dies from cancer having lost my husband 6 months ago to cancer, the description of the fictional character's last weeks rings very, very true.
Yet it's never gruesome or gratuitous, just matter-of-fact. This book really gives me a sense of day to day life, in a specific place and time, without false sentimentality or contrived plot. A thread of beauty runs through Martha's story. Apr 30, Megargee rated it really liked it.
The year is Gasoline powered vehicles and machines are just being introduced, electricity and indoor plumbing are far in the future, medicine is primitive, and the younger men and many of the horses are being sent to France to fight in WW I. The girl wondered what sort of view could be seen from those windows, and she turned in the saddle to look.
There had been a little cold rain earlier in the day and the clouds were moving southeast now, dragging low across the pointy tops of the lodgepole and yellow pine stands in the far distance; there was no telling whether the serrate line of the Whitehorns might show in better weather. By the time she turned back toward the house a woman had come out on the porch and was wiping her hands on her apron. She was just about exactly the age of the man who'd been feeding cows, which was fifty, and she stood there in black high-top shoes and a long dress and a sweater with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, stood there wiping her hands and squinting at the girl.
Martha said, "I'm here to see about some work breaking horses. The man feeding cows in that field by the road said I ought to wait here till he came in to talk to me about it.
He'll be a while. Martha watered her horses and led them over to the barn but she didn't put them up. She left them standing saddled in the open runway, out of the wind, then walked back to the house. The dog met her again and smelled of her boots and her chaps up to the knees and she patted him on the head and went past him onto the porch.
When she rapped lightly on the door the woman inside called out, "You'd better just come on in. The dim front room ran the width of the house and was furnished more elaborately than Martha was used to, with upholstered chairs, carved end tables, Turkish rugs, kerosene lamps with elaborate glass shades.
Thick draperies closed off the windows, which might have been to keep the heat inside; but Martha felt if there was any chance of seeing the mountains she'd have left the windows open to the view. She crossed the room and went through a doorway into the kitchen where the woman was pouring coffee into heavy china cups.
This room was bare of the fussy furnishings at the front of the house. The long pine table and chairs and two kitchen cupboards were painted white, and the windows were tall and narrow and curtainless. The day's gray brightness flooding through those panes of glass made the room seem clean and cold.
From this side of the house you could see some trees, but the house was too close to the Clarks to get a view of their snowy peaks. The girl took off her hat and held it in her hands. A horse has got to have something to eat. Sit down now and drink your coffee. He had on overalls and a brown coat. She spoke as if the girl had asked for every bit of their family history but it was just that she had immediately taken Martha Lessen for a certain kind of ranch girl, the kind that followed the seasonal work traipsing from ranch to ranch; and Louise had known such girls to be shy as the dickens and indisposed to talk.
She felt it would be up to her to fill the silence, and Martha's old-time cowboy trappings seemed to make her a perfect audience for romantic pioneer stories. When George Bliss came in through the back porch he poured himself some coffee and stood there drinking it without sitting down at the kitchen table. His wife wasn't saying anything he didn't already know. She and George had brought four children into the world, she was telling Martha, and one had died shortly after being born but they had a boy who was now in Kansas preparing to fight in France and another who was at college up in Pullman, Washington, with the intent to learn veterinary medicine, and a girl, Miriam, who was married and living with her husband's family on a ranch up around Pilot Rock.
George stood there drinking his coffee quietly and letting Louise go on talking without interrupting her, and it was the telephone that finally broke the thread of her story and made all three of them jump. It wasn't the Blisses' ring — theirs was two longs and a short, this was three long jangles — but Mrs. Bliss went to the telephone anyway. In those days there were seven ranches on the party line at that end of the valley and they listened in on each other's calls without a bit of apology.
George took his opening to say to Martha, "I've got a couple of likely-looking three-year-olds, or I guess they're four-year-olds now, that haven't never been broke. They're halter-broke more or less, and I suppose I could get a saddle on them if I was determined about it, and I suppose if I was truly determined I could stick on and ride them out.
But they ain't been finished and I haven't got the time to do it now that my son has gone off to fight. I've got just two hands I've been able to keep this winter. Henry Frazer, who was my foreman, has left me and gone over to help out the Woodruff sisters since all their hands joined up, and one of the two I got left is a kid who I expect will be joined up as soon as he turns eighteen and anyway ain't had much experience bucking out horses. I hired him mostly as a ditch walker and for moving the gates on my dams and so forth in the summer, and I'm trying to teach him cowboying but he's not the best hand I ever had in the world; and the other is a fellow with a bum arm that keeps him out of the army and also keeps him from doing any kind of roping, and which is a disadvantage, I guess you know, if you're trying to break broncs.
She crossed the room and went through a doorway into the kitchen where the woman was pouring coffee into heavy china cups. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. She has a string of three of her own horses with her, including Dolly, a mare that had survived a terrible fire and was scarred and disfigured. Most of the young men - ranch and farm hands - are off fighting in World War I and Martha is able to realize her dream of gentling horses in this area of the Little Bird Woman River. The Hearts Of Horses. Published 12 days ago. It might be the heroine of the book, a young woman named Martha, who we find out is innocent and idealistic under her tough, rather odd exterior she dresses in "old-fashioned cowboy trappings"--chaps and a big old cowboy hat, as she travels around Oregon to break horses.
Martha Lessen was a terrible hand with a lariat and horses hardly ever bucked when she rode them the first time but she didn't say any of this to George Bliss. She'd been helping out her dad since she was old enough to sit her own horse, and she'd been about thirteen the first time anybody hired her to move cattle or gather horses off the open range or round up a runaway team.
She'd been breaking horses since she was fifteen but it had always been something she'd done in her spare time while she was working summers on one ranch or another and not something she'd been paid separately for. She knew the hard part wasn't climbing onto a horse for the first time and a decent working horse might take a year or two to truly finish, and she thought George Bliss must know this too.
But she could get a horse pretty well along in a few weeks, and after that it would be a matter of the horse gaining experience. She waited and when nothing more was said, she added, "If you aren't happy with the way they turn out, you don't have to pay me. Bliss looked at his wife, who had by now hung up the telephone and come back to the table. Martha wanted to know what sort of look Louise Bliss was giving back to him but she deliberately kept from acting interested: Then Louise said suddenly, "Do you know?
This girl sitting here is named Martha? George said, "Is that so," with no more than mild interest. His two white mules were standing there tied to the porch rails; George Bliss had saddled them before he had come inside the house. He climbed onto one of them and when she realized what was expected of her Martha got up on the other and they rode out to find the horses.
The yellow dog ran to get ahead because it was his habit to take the lead, a habit that had resulted in his acquiring the name Pilot. The war had encouraged George Bliss to plow up a big stretch of his deeded pastureland to plant wheat, so his wheat fields, fenced and cross- fenced and edged with irrigation ditches and diversion dams, took up most of the flattish ground to the east and the south near the homeplace.
George led Martha the back way, north through a gate into the grass and bitterbrush foothills. After forty minutes or so they went up through another gate into the scattered timber of the Clarks Range. Those mountains had been part of Teddy Roosevelt's freshly minted Blue Mountain Forest Reserve back in '06, then were split off into their own reserve about The Taylor Grazing Act and all the rules and rigamarole of leasing from the government were a good fifteen years off at that point and George was still using the mountains as pasture for his livestock, was still wintering his horses and some of his cattle in the grassy canyons inside the reserve.
He and Martha began scouring the creek bottoms one after the other, looking for the horses he wanted to show her. She had a cowboy's disregard for mules — a mule lacked the dignity and honorableness of a horse was one of the things she believed.
But this belief wasn't in any way based on experience and it was a surprise to her to discover that the white mule had a nice swinging walk and a sure foot and a look in his eye that struck her as entirely dignified. When they had been riding in silence for a while, she finally worked up the nerve to say a few words to George Bliss about the mule's gait and his sure-footedness. He told her, "Well, a mule is no good for working cattle, I guess you know, but I've always been partial to them for packing or if I'm going up into broken ground. They never put their foot wrong is my experience.
My daddy used to raise mules for the army, which is how I got interested in them. They've got a lot of good sense. A mule won't put up with a lopsided load; he'll walk right up to a tree and scrape it off. I guess if I was smart I ought to go to raising them again, with the war and all, and there being a lot of call for mules.
The novel is finally about Elwha. What drives the narrative are historic forces that clash within that isolated community, although some of the more interesting ones are reported rather than dramatized, like Louise dealing with patriotic bigots and the personal tragedies and triumphs of Elwha's residents, which are presented through beautifully wrought scenes.
It is a story of flux between the old and new West, about what is ugly and beautiful in each. And Gloss shows us that no matter how we try to construct a future, it will shape itself in its own way and no amount of nostalgia will create a romanticized past in the present. If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE, click 'Authenticate'.
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