- Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Harper; Reissue edition (March 30 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060580275
- ISBN-13: 978-0060580278
- Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.5 x 17.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #206,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Riding Lessons Mass Market Paperback – Mar 30 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Like The Horse Whisperer, Gruen's polished debut is a tale of human healing set against the primal world of horses. The Olympic dreams of teenaged equestrian Annemarie Zimmer end when her beloved horse, Harry, injures her and destroys himself in a jumping accident. In the agonizing aftermath, she gives up riding and horses entirely. Two decades later, she returns to her family's horse farm a divorcee, with her troubled teenaged daughter, Eve, in tow. There, her gruff Germanic mother struggles to maintain the farm and care for Annemarie's father, who is stricken with ALS. Although Annemarie decides (disastrously) to manage the farm's business, her attention quickly turns to an old and ostensibly worthless horse with the same rare coloring as Harry. Her long-denied passion for riding reawakens as she tracks the horse's identity and eventually discovers it to be Harry's younger brother. She must heal both horse and herself as she struggles with her father's deterioration, Eve's rebellion and her attraction to both the farm's new trainer and her childhood sweetheart Dan. Impulsive and self-absorbed, Annemarie isn't always likable, but Gruen's portrait of the stoic elder Zimmers is beautifully nuanced, as is her evocation of Eve's adolescent troubles. Amid this realistically complex generational sandwich, the book's appealing horse scenesdepicted with unsentimental affectionhelp build a moving story of loss, survival and renewal.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Annemarie, 18, is a world-class equestrienne who is sure to be a contender in the next Olympics. Then, a terrible jumping accident causes the death of her magnificent horse, Highland Harry, as well as severe injuries to Annemarie herself. Damaged as much in spirit as in body, she marries Roger, moves to another state, and gets a degree in English, vowing never to ride again. Twenty years of a more or less emotionally empty life go by until one fateful day when Annemarie loses both her job and her husband. With her defiant 15-year-old daughter in tow, Annemarie returns to her parents' riding school in New Hampshire, where her father is dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Suddenly, Annemarie is bombarded with all sorts of emotions and responsibilities, including the rekindling of an old romance and the discovery of a broken-down horse that looks remarkably like Highland Harry. Fans of Nicholas Evans' The Horse Whisperer (1995) and Jessica Bird's impressive debut, Leaping Hearts (2002), will also enjoy this emotion-packed book, which is so exquisitely written it's hard to believe that it's also a debut. Shelley Mosley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
another book by this author but to my disappointment this book was awful.
The main character Annemarie was ridiculous, thinking of preparing a
gourmet meal when she couldn't even cook and and dying her horse with
hair dye, please!! Also I could not believe that she could not "get over"
her teenage problems with her parents and be there for her Father when he
was dying, terrible. The romance interests were lame and the ending was
predictable. Can't believe it was the same author that wrote the wonderful "Water for Elephants"
Annemarie is such a broken character that I found her unpalatable. At 38, she sneaks out of the house in the morning so she doesn't have to face the father that she knows is dying? Shallow should be this woman's middle name. It is very difficult to root for her or find satisfaction with the novel when she discovers what she thinks is contentment in the last few pages.
The equine stuff is fairly believable, although the constant references to the "stablehands" like they were second class citizens wore thin. The people that keep a barn running and successful are the people that Annemarie shuns and is revolted that her daughter associates with. I find this inconsistent with my experience.
There are several questions left unanswered (why is Dan, the veterinarian living in a condemned-sounding trailer?).
This is a book that makes you think that you, too, can be a novelist if this is where the bar is set.
As far as the writing group in question, I'm sorry that the censorship efforts of a few "friends" on that site contributes to the anger of some. I believe the members of the site should reevaluate their structure and allow ALL writers voices to be heard, not just a few angry regulars. You've always been fair to me though and I'm not going to hold you responsible for the efforts of others to work so hard to ban me for stating different opinions. I'll simply chalk that up to lack of maturity and insecurity over hearing my realities of writing. Every opinion has it's reasons and even here I hope you disregard the ones that aren't complimentary.
Your work from what I've read is exemplary. This chapter moved me, touched me and made me respect you as a fellow writer. Please let me know when your next book is released and I hope to join you either at HC or any other publisher who has the panache and elegance to publish your work. It's nice to see a book so tenderly written.
I write this review not to nurture your career, or because I'm with a group, but purely out of an appreciation for the first chapter here. I have no other motivation, especially since I was banned from that group. But it's the RIGHT thing to do, and I stand by my moral beliefs.
Your (nemesis--LOL) and friend always,
Jennifer Lawson - Zepeda
The story sucked me in immediately. This, Gruen's first novel, is an absolute masterpiece. The story is narrated by the main character, Annemarie, and also told in present tense. This combination lends the book a liveliness and immediacy that fully engages the reader. In fact, I read the whole book in one day, staying up very late at night to finish it because I was so fascinated with the story. It is fast-paced and to-the-point, but contains all the little details that make the whole book seem real. It also helps immensely that the author is obviously a true horseperson herself. I am frequently disappointed by authors that write about horses when it is plain that they know nothing about them, but Gruen clearly knows her stuff.
I also liked the fact that the heroine here is a very real person. She is not a perfect woman beset by circumstances entirely beyond her control, but has her own faults as well. As the story progresses Annemarie discovers the ways in which she herself has contributed to her current misfortunes, and this acceptance of her own responsibility makes her even more likeable. She is a character we can all identify with because she is so very human. There are times when she is peevish, or overly protective of her daughter, or emotionally irrational. Despite all her best intentions she nearly ruins her parents' family business. But she also has moments of dry wit in reference to herself that are refreshing and funny.
In addition, the author does an excellent job of developing the relationships between all the characters of the story. I was startled by many of the parallels between Annemarie's family and my own. Each character is multi-dimensional, and has both strengths and weaknesses. The struggles between Annemarie and her mother, daughter, and the man whose love she spurned so many years before are all poignant and wonderfully realistic. We also see Annemarie's inner turmoil over how to face her father's illness. Sara Gruen is clearly a very talented writer, and has woven a beautiful story here. It bares the basic essence of life and lets us inspect it from all angles. I sincerely hope to see more books like this in the near future, and would recommend this novel to anyone.
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