Now, 20 years later, Annemarie is coming home to her dying father's New Hampshire horse farm. Jobless and abandoned, she is bringing her troubled teenage daughter to this place of pain and memory, where ghosts of an unresolved youth still haunt the fields and stables - and where hope lives in the eyes of the handsome, gentle veterinarian Annemarie loved as a girl...and in the seductive allure of a trainer with a magic touch.
But everything will change yet again with one glimpse of a white striped gelding startlingly similar to the one Annemarie lost in another lifetime. And an obsession is born that could shatter her fragile world.
©2004 Sara Gruen; (P)2008 HighBridge Company
"So exquisitely written it's hard to believe that its also a debut." (Booklist)
"A moving story of loss, survival and renewal." (Publishers Weekly)
I was so excited when I saw another Sara Gruen novel available on Audible that I immediately downloaded this book. I didn't even bother to read any reviews of the book, a mistake I am not likely to make again. I recently listened to Water for Elephants, and it is one of my favorite books of all time. It is hard to believe that the same author wrote Riding Lessons. There is a great story surrounding the horses, and the first chapter is well written and certainly grabs your attention. However, the main character, Annemarie, quickly begins to get on your nerves. She is constantly making incredibly bad decisions, followed by hysterics when the decisions lead to undesired consequences. I didn't read the book, but the narrator's rendition of Annemarie's hysterics are truly painful to the ear. Many times during the 11 hours of the book, I had the urge to slap some sense into the non-existent Annemarie. The other people in her life are equally annoying, from her bratty daughter, to her withdrawn mother, and her ex-husband. All in all, I would save my audio credits for something else.
How many horse metaphors can you fit in one book? How many times can you hear the phrase 'took my breath away' before you begin to wonder if you've been reading the same chapter over and over again?
For the answers to these and many other sleep inducing questions please see "Riding Lessons". What this book lacks in originality is makes up for in dressage jargon. Here's the plot: Girl loves horse. Horse dies. Girl lives angry, horseless life. Gets divorced. Comes home. Finds redemption in ... you guessed it ... a new horse. Oh, and she also finds a good, handsome vet the sleep with. Wow.
If all that were not enough, even the tangential characters are drawn from central casting. Take for instance the whining, demanding, Jewish/doctor woman with a New York accent ... this minor character is so formulaic that it almost smacks of anti-Semitism.
Finally, if you like horses don't read this book. They deserve better.
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
This 38 year old woman, loses her job, finds out her husband is leaving her for a 23 year old bombshell and that her 15 year old daughter is about to be expelled from school all in one day. Her response is pretty much, Oh Well, Que sera. It is not until she finds a tattoo on her daughters boob, that she seems to show much emotion.
In the author's defense, we find out later that she is 1. Rich, 2. Not in love with her husband and 3. Has never disciplined her daughter thus leading to this Que Sera response to these things. In the four hours that I listened we find out that all she cares about is herself and horses.
After reading Water For Elephants I was eager to read another book by Gruen. This turned out to be her debut novel and not meant for my taste. It is actually well written, but it seems to be written for a different audience. Horse lovers might like it and adult women who have yet to mature. This did not have good reviews when I bought it and I should have know better. I will only listen to more Gruen, if I see she get reviews similar to Water For Elephants.
The narrator was good.
This was my first Sara Gruen book, and I have to say that I truly enjoyed it from beginning to end. Ok, so I pretty much guessed how the story would end, but what's wrong with a happy ending now and again? The main character did the best she could with all that was put on her plate. The daughter reminded me of many a teenager trying to find herself. And the mother, well, she reminded me of one of my teacherr's mother. In short, I LOVED!! the story and would recommend it to all my friends. I thought the reader was wonderful in bringing all the various accents and characterizations to life for me. Kudos, Sara and Maggi-Meg!!!
I always perserve to the end of a book, but this is one exception. I disliked the main character so much, I deleted the book before I was half way through. It is easy to be intrigued by a villain, but a stupid, self absorbed, selfish person is just too much.
I can't remember a main character in a novel who is quite as unlikeable or unsympathetic as Anne Marie Zimmer. And as other reviewers have mentioned, the narrator's screeching and ranting just makes it worse. If you loved Water for Elephants (I did), do yourself a favor and do not read/listen to Riding Lessons.
I'm always looking for something horsey to read. I really enjoyed this book. Was it a little predictable? Sure. Did the mom make stupid decisions? Of course, but the world is full of people who have made bad decisions. I still enjoyed it. I liked it so much, in fact, that since Audible doesn't have the sequel I will have to buy it in print.
Having just completed this book, I must say I found it a wonderful, entertaining, moving read and the narration was excellent! I plan to search for other books by both the author and narrator.
One of the fun things about an audiobook is that a good narrator brings the story, and the characters, alive with his or her voice, and yes, ACCENT.
Perhaps I was swayed by the fact that when Annemarie's mother first "spoke" in the story, she sounded just like my German grandmother. (An older woman's voice SHOULD be a bit shrill, yes?)
Sure, the protagonist brings a lot of her misfortune on herself... I still liked the tale a lot. I wasn't expecting Great Literature. I wanted to be entertained, and I was.
I was so excited to see another novel by Gruen. I so enjoyed Water for Elephants. And I was so disappointed when I finally realized after about three hours of listening time that the story really stunk and wasn't going to get any better. What a really worn out story line. What a really irritating main character. What a really annoying narrator. What a really big waste of time.
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