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Publisher's Summary

In the winter of 1917, a big-boned young woman shows up at George Bliss's doorstep. She's looking for a job breaking horses, and he hires her on. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath her showy rodeo garb, a shy but strong-willed girl with a serious knowledge of horses.

So begins the irresistible tale of 19-year-old Martha Lessen, a female horse whisperer trying to make a go of it in a man's world. It was thought that the only way to break a horse was to buck the wild out of it, and broken ribs and tough falls just went with the job. But over several long, hard winter months, many of the townsfolk in this remote county of eastern Oregon witness Martha's way of talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair---and getting miraculous, almost immediate results---and she thereby earns a place of respect in the community.

Along the way, Martha helps a family save their horses when their wagon slides into a ravine. She gentles a horse for a dying man---a last gift to his young son. She clashes with a hired hand who is abusing horses in unspeakable ways. Soon, despite her best efforts to remain aloof and detached, she comes to feel enveloped by a sense of community and family that she's never had before.

With the elegant sweetness of Plainsong and a pitch-perfect sense of western life reminiscent of Annie Dillard, The Hearts of Horses is a remarkable story about how people and animals make connections and touch each other's lives in the most unexpected and profound ways.

©2007 Molly Gloss (P)2009 Tantor

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Simple, Honest, Wonderful

Simple, honest, wonderful portrayal of life in the American West in the pre-WWI years. Yes, the main character is a young girl who defies female stereotypes of the times to follow her dream, but the many side characters are fully fleshed out with large passages devoted to their lives in this hardscrabble world. Yes, there are details of how this girl broke horses using love and kindness rather than brute force, but there are many other interesting details of life in Oregon's interior that were equally as interesting.

If I had to compare this book to anything, it would be to the James Herriott books about a country vet in Yorkshire, England. Like Herriott, Gloss obviously knows her subject matter inside and out and loves the people and places she is describing, and the reader soon loves them, too. Also like the Herriott books, Gloss tells her story in a series of related, chronological vignettes, rather than in a tightly plotted novel with a clear central conflict, climax, etc.

The reader was perfectly chosen for this book. Her slightly scratchy voice and barely-perceptible twang really brought Martha, the protagonist, and all her fellow Oregonians to life. All of which made for a gentle novel that was beautifully simple and therefore eminently enjoyable and memorable.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Captures the love of horses

If you love horses and can relate to the "gentle-method" of horse breaking, this book effectively draws one into the story. The narrator is soft spoken and captures the spirit of this book. The book is not fast paced or action packed. However, the rythymn and narration draws one into the gentler side of life. I especially liked this book when my days have been hectic. I was drawn into the story and the characters. I looked forward to the book being very soothing and a great way to listen and relax. I would highly recommend if you have worked around horses or if you want to get an indoctrination into the horse culture from someone with good "horse sense!"

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

sad for it to end

this was a wonderful romantic old book that any horse lover would get caught up in. I really enjoyed it and was sad for it to end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved everything about this!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is the story of a young woman trying to find herself in the world, but it is also the story of America finding itself in the world. The lives of the people portrayed essentially ARE the lives of us all, told from a compassionate and realistic point of view.

What does Renée Raudman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator managed the pacing in a way that I might not have. I tend to read very quickly, and hearing the story read so expertly placed the proper emphasis and weight to passages that I might have allowed to be swallowed up in the hurry to turn the page.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent for a Reading Club

I was attracted to this book because I am an Oregon native and the setting is Eastern Oregon during World War One. Although "Elwha County" is a fictional location, the descriptions of the Northeastern part of my state are vivid and true. I became very attached to horse whisperer, Martha, and loved the voice given to her by Renee Raudman. I believe this would make a great reading group selection because there are so many metaphors and so much interesting symbolism in the book.
I've listened to maybe 40 audio books and The Hearts of Horses is one of the top 5.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Must get if you love horses

What made the experience of listening to The Hearts of Horses the most enjoyable?

The story was wonderful from start to end....

Which scene was your favorite?

The end, it just was heart warming.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Warm hearted hirsesjuat love it and I'm looking for other like this book...

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • aj
  • 04-23-12

GREAT STORY FOR HORSE LOVERS

What did you love best about The Hearts of Horses?

TIPS ON TRAINING IN THE CONTEXT OF A GOOD STORY

Any additional comments?

AS A HORSE LOVER, I JUST LOVED THE STORY OF A PERSON WHO KNOWS HOW TO TREAT A BELOVED ANIMAL. I APPRECIATED THE STORY, HISTORY, TRAINING INFO . . . . . . LOVED IT ALL!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An utterly compelling slice of life

Any additional comments?

I found the summary misleading in that it suggests the central tale is about the breaking of horses. That storyline exists, yes, but it serves more as a backdrop to the story of a young woman's emergence into adulthood, than as the main theme.

Early on we learn a little of the hard life and humble expectations of Martha, a young woman who has a better understanding of her four legged friends than of the people around her. As Martha works to break a group of horses (with a gentleness she herself has never really known) the community into which she is drawn also gently nudges her to see beyond the narrow boundaries of her expectations for herself. As the horses blossom, so does Martha, in a quiet, undramatic and yet thoroughly compelling

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

If you love horses, you will love this book.

What did you love best about The Hearts of Horses?

I'm a 'horsey' person, so I found the details and facts regarding the horses to be both accurate and informative. The whole story is filled with wonderful characters that you come to know and like.

What did you like best about this story?

This story has a gentle, quiet quality about it makes listening to it a pleasure.

Which character – as performed by Renée Raudman – was your favorite?

Martha, the main character.

Who was the most memorable character of The Hearts of Horses and why?

Martha again. She is an old soul in a young body and I loved her connection with the horses and her simplicity.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

If you love horses and a little history...

This is a beautiful story that is beautifully narrated. Molly Gloss takes you back to Oregon and the days of WW1 where a young girl, the quintessential horse whisperer, learns about life in a ranching community. The characters are vividly portrayed and the story reminds one of the importance of life and relationships.