Charismatic, albeit meandering memoir about the author’s discovery of love and self-acceptance while on a book tour.
The book was Chosen by a Horse (2006), an account of Richards’s relationship with an abused mare named “Lay Me Down” that finally got this reclusive animal lover and writing teacher into print after years of trying. The tour plucked her from isolation in upstate New York for what became a life-altering journey through small-town bookstores across the Northeast. Richards reconnected with friends and relatives she’d cut off during years of anxiety and low self-esteem, encounters that prompted her to examine the memories surrounding each of them and to grapple with her past. Bolstered by positive reviews and feedback from readers, her confidence grew. She was able to develop relationships and chat with strangers at her readings; she could even, when a self-assured older gentleman crossed her path, overcome her wariness of intimacy. Richards had experienced previous disappointments and was going through menopause, so theirs was not precisely a fairy-tale romance, even though she makes frequent use of the word “fate” when describing it. Self-conscious, cautious and analytical during the process of falling in love, the author fought feelings of being swept away. She shares all of this quite openly with readers in candid, if somewhat undirected prose that explores her fears, her past and her passions. Anxiety often takes the front seat in her narrative, which chronicles a struggle toward self-approval after a lifetime of feeling unwanted. Richards admits to being shy in person, but she’s clearly comfortable in the memoir format, which tends to foster an occasionally excessive amount of self-psychoanalysis. (She’s equally at ease talking about her “baggage” or her pets.) Fortunately, her charming, self-effacing humor keeps the tone light even when she’s examining darker feelings.
Engaging writing by an honest self-explorer.