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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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Overall

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  • Overall

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Alice
  • Columbus, OH, United States
  • 07-20-09

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!"

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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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.

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Disappointed

From the title of this book I had thought there would be much more story line having to do with the horses. It's mostly about Martha, her life and the people she meets while training horses. I had hoped for the former so I was disappointed.

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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.

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  • Kimberly
  • Pinellas Park, FL, United States
  • 10-08-12

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...

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Slow Ride

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The story needed to set the hook faster...creating intrigue, wonder and the I can't quit listening button!

Has The Hearts of Horses turned you off from other books in this genre?

Not necessarily....just needs to have a story woven within that causes the mind to wonder instead of wander!

Would you be willing to try another one of Renée Raudman’s performances?

Probably

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Hearts of Horses?

I didn't really read that far into the book to describe 'what I would do'...just found it uninteresting and slow.

Any additional comments?

I grew up riding all of my life til age 25....for me, having the experience of working with, riding for pleasure and training for show....this novel wasn't there. Perhaps for someone with little or no experience in the horse world, maybe a good read. Not for me though.

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  • Stacey
  • Memphis, TN, United States
  • 06-10-12

Disappointing and poorly written

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I don't normally write reviews for books I don't care for but this one had so many positive reviews that I felt it necessary to add my opinion. <br/>First, the author writes the book from the perspective of almost every character in the book, which is not necessarily bad, but she often switches from one person to another in mid sentence. This is annoying and very hard to follow. She also has a tendancy to be talking about an event or thought that is currently taking place and then goes on to explain stuff that WILL happen in the future and then add "but she didn't think of that now" or "but that wouldn't happen for years". If it didn't happen or wasn't thought of, don't bring it up. It's distracting from the story. <br/>As for the story, I was excited to read a "Horse Whisperer" style novel with a female as the main character however she isn't really the main character and the story is pretty much pointless and doesn't really have anything to do with the horses. A story should have a beginning middle and end. The beginning of this book brings the young girl to a ranch and gets her hired on to break some horses. At this point characters should be developing so that we begin to understand who they are and why they do what they do. The author falls short on this. You get a vague sense of who each of them are but nothing more. <br/>The middle is just a long rambling of events, none of which REALLY matter. Even the romance between the girl and guy is underwhelming and you keep expecting something to happen but it never does. In fact NOTHING really happens. People die and bones are broken but none of them are written as the main pivot point of the story. <br/>The end is just a rushed wrap up as if the author got just as bored writing it as I got reading it. <br/>The last complaint I have is the narrator. She was horrible. The book was read as if to a class full of school kids. The performance was overly dramatic and at times I stopped paying attention to the words because her performance was annoying me to the point of distraction. I will avoid listening to books read by her from now on.

What was most disappointing about Molly Gloss’s story?

Poorly written, poor story development, poor character development

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Renée Raudman?

Anyone

What character would you cut from The Hearts of Horses?

Any of them could have been cut. Not one character was developed enough to be pivotal to the non existent story line.

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  • aj
  • Collegedale, TN, United States
  • 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!

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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.