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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 listeners say about The Hearts of Horses

Average Customer Ratings
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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.

6 people found this 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!"

6 people found this 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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

A book for horse lovers

I thoroughly enjoyed this book... until the end. Great story that was an easy read. The ending didn't tie off the book and felt rushed and uncharacteristic of the people you get to know in the beginning.

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Interesting

A neat novel based in the past. A good western rustic romantic book. Not so much lovey dovey but in a matter of fact and Life

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Early 20th century piece about a woman being true to herself, amazing

I love this book, it is a straightforward book about a young woman who still wants to be a woman, but wants to be her own kind of woman. She was a tremendous character and I enjoyed her so much. Loving horses all my life I truly understood how much she love them and also why she wanted to make them do what was right so that they had good manners and people would want to be around them. I think it’s one of the truest portrayals of Tough love and Goodcents mixed with humor and life’s pathos that I’ve ever read. It is a wise piece in a world where everyone thinks they have gender identity issues and they are unfortunate. You don’t have to be a homosexual to be a strong woman. You don’t have to be anything to be yourself. To quote a line from an Orphan X novel that says it best, “be yourself, because who else can you be?“. That’s how I see this book. A young woman in a time when women were beginning to really be strong and open about being who they were and not Who everyone else thought they should be. Thank you Miss gloss, the portrayal of the community spirit and the true life way that people live life and interact with each other in the country was phenomenal.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Nice western "girl loves horses" story

I had originally purchased this book in paperback for my horse-crazy daughter, and then purchased it in Audible format for us to listen to on a road trip. The narrator did a very nice job with the voices, and read the story with good diction, inflection, and at a good pace. The story itself was very nice, especially if you like western stories with happy endings. My main quibble with the book is that the author did not appear to do a lot of research on the topic as she made several mistakes with horse/cow information that anybody who has much experience with those species would know wasn't right. But, the characters were very pleasant (although pretty one-dimensional - they are either all good, or all bad), and the story line worked out. The ending felt a little rushed. Not sure if I'll read any more books by this author, maybe the sequel to this one since it is less about horses and cattle.

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GREAT BOOK!!!

This book was great. It captured me from the very beginning and held me right to the end. I hated to turn it off. I love the innocence that Martha Lessons seemed to carry throughout the entire story. I wish I could find more stories like this one. ❤️❤️❤️