When an aspiring author begins horseback-riding lessons, she discovers her true passion in Andrews’ (Saints in the City, 2008, etc.) novel.
Clarissa “Claire” Stamos is saddled with a stale marriage and an unfulfilling job at her father’s hardware store, but writing is her main joy. When inspiration for a Western romance screenplay strikes, she takes riding lessons at a nearby barn for research. Although her newfound fascination with horses alienates her husband, George, she keeps at it, investing in a sweet-tempered, 18-year-old appendix quarter horse named Sonny, who serves as the novel’s narrator. Claire experiences the ups and downs of riding, from her first fall to the complicated social dynamics at Crown Ridge, where Sonny is boarded. Meanwhile, the divide between the married couple grows; Claire suspects that George is using his weekly wine club to commit infidelity: “When George…gives her a kiss, there’s wine on his breath. She doesn’t know the vintage or the provenance, but she knows betrayal when she tastes it.” She finds her own temptation in Sebastian Bergalo, a top-notch, handsome Argentinian trainer at Crown Ridge. She initially thinks that he’s an arrogant snob, but his admiration for her can-do spirit brings them closer. As Claire falls deeper in love with the world of horses, her confidence blooms. But when George is offered a job in Paris, he gives her an ultimatum: either she stops riding or he leaves. Andrews hits the mark in using the traumas of the primary characters to create stories of healing. Claire, for example, has long suppressed a history of sexual abuse; Sonny is haunted by memories of a violent former owner; and Sebastian has his own secrets beneath his confident exterior. The heavy use of equestrian terminology may grow tiresome to readers unfamiliar with the mechanics of riding (“Apply your inside leg at the girth and hold him in with your outside leg”), but it’s outweighed by the grounded, almost spiritual tone of Sonny’s narration: “She falls asleep where she is as the moon rises and remnants of raindrops glint on the glass panels above, just like the grass where I graze glistens under moonlight.”
A sweet narrative about self-actualization.