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Publisher's Summary

From the author of Veronica, a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, comes Mary Gaitskill's most poignant and powerful work yet: the story of a Dominican girl, the white woman who introduces her to riding, and the horse who changes everything for her.

Velveteen Vargas is an 11-year-old from Brooklyn who is granted a summer vacation in the country, courtesy of the nonprofit Fresh Air Fund. Her host family is a couple in upstate New York: Ginger, a failed artist on the fringe of Alcoholics Anonymous; and Paul, an academic who wonders what it will mean to "make a difference" in such a contrived situation. Here we see the couple's changing relationship with Velvet over the course of several years as well as Velvet's powerful encounter with the horses at the stable down the road, as Gaitskill weaves together Velvet's vital inner-city community and the privileged country world of Ginger and Paul.

The timeless story of a girl and a horse is joined with the story of people from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds trying to meet one another honestly. It is a novel that is raw, striking, and completely original.

©2015 Mary Gaitskill (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Four excellent narrators tell Velvet's story through various points of view in alternating chapters. Each narrator perfectly defines the complexities of the character being portrayed, while showing different sides of Velvet - often not flattering." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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

Horse people should enjoy this.

The horse /human relationships are accurate. Interesting comparison of 2 different worlds and the power of the equine bond. Very well written, but I'm extremely disappointed in the ending.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 01-06-16

disappointing

This novel is about a "fresh air" 12 year old city girl, Velvet, who spends two weeks in the country with Ginger and her husband. She falls in love with the horses at the nearby stables. It is a first person narrative, with different narrators each chapter. The start of the novel was very good, but each hour I listened made me less interested. Halfway through (8 hours into this), I just stopped caring and quit. For one thing, very little happened. A slow moving story can be good, but only if the characters are great. I liked the girl, Velvet (good character and great narrator), but none of the adults really came alive to me. Ginger, the main adult, just became less and less believable and less interesting. If it were not such a long book, I might have stayed with it. I also wanted more with the horses.

50 of 54 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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    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome

I love this book! The characters are so real that when the book ended I kept thinking about them and wondering what they were doing in their lives. I think that's the best compliment one can give an author when they create a world that so real we feel like we're missing out because we don't know what's happening in it.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic audio performances

This novel features different voices, and the audio format was ideal for presenting this work. The voices were so distinct and really gave me a flavor of the characters. I highly recommend this audio version, even more than the print book – although I've already recommended that to people too.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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

Give These Characters a Swift Punch in the Face!

Any additional comments?

As someone who loved horse stories of all varieties as a kid, I was eager to listen to this retelling of "National Velvet." But the novel is a misstep. All of the characters were unpalatable, perhaps most so the heroine, Velvet, who is an unqualified brat.

That said, the book has its moments, and its narrators went above and beyond. They gave the book life, even if the author did not. The woman who read Ginger should get an award.

But unless you want to spend hours with your hands balled into fists, wishing you could punch characters who are infuriatingly obtuse, unthankful, or downright crazy, I'd suggest you stay away from this book.

50 of 57 people found this review helpful

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  • SydSavvy
  • PARIS, TX, United States
  • 02-29-16

Let the Mare Teach You

I actually really liked this book, even though I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I think the ending was just right.

The premise is that there is a program where inner city children get to go for a summer vacation with families who sign up. Of course, the child has problems (life) and the families (both) have problems (life). But the summer family lives next to a stable, and there is a horse that the girl is attracted to, the horse has the most problems of all. The Mare becomes her own character, and at times symbolizes all of the women in the story.

How can this possibly end good for this child? Well, it is not a perfect world, and there are no perfect answers, but sometimes there are perfect moments, and sometimes we can learn quite a bit about our sanctimonious ways by reading a novel. Well done.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful

This was a beautifully written book. Narration superb. I do not usually write reviews but this was worth letting others know

18 of 21 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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    5 out of 5 stars

Have you ever wondered about the "other" people

What did you love best about The Mare?

I am an old curmudgeon. I have lived through many stages (including combat). I never, ever cry...not ever.
I cried listening to this book.
I am buying several copies to give away.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Mare?

there are too many to describe

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

Velvet

If you could take any character from The Mare out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Velvet. She could explain a lot to me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Beatrice
  • Brattleboro, VT, United States
  • 06-16-17

Moving portrayal of intercultural and intersected relationships -- an important book for today's world

One of the best novels I have listened to. Gaitskill strives for authenticity in all her characters. The portrayal of a young girl discovering life and discovering herself through her relationship with an unruly horse is very moving. The clash between middle class intellectuals and inner city life is explored with respect and love. The harsh, bewildering world of junior high is all too real. I loved this book and will listen to it again. The author is masterful at describing the felt sense of situations that takes us way below the surface.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Want more

Very good readers; made it come alive. Poetic writing, metaphorical. I wish there was more about the horses and some details concerning horses were missing. I would've thought that what velvet wore to the horse show, as riding clothes, would have been a big issue. Enjoyed it thoroughly and hope there is a sequel.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful