Riding Lessons Mass Market Paperback – Mar 11 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.
Gruen writes the book from Annemarie's point of view, allowing us to see among the heroine's many faults her understanding that the weakness are her own. We feel her struggle to reach out to her dying father and her pain at being unable to bring herself to do so. We see what's wrong with her handling of her daughter, yet we understand, and we appreciate her willingness to accept her role in the contentious relationship and try to change.
And then there are the horses. Without sentimentalizing, Gruen brings to life the powerful feelings that come as horse and rider learn to respond to one another. Gruen's writing, and particularly her dialog, is smooth and natural and sometimes playful. She gives us the details we need to understand a scene or a character and lets us react-with tears and occasional laughter for this reader. This is a book to be savored, one I'm sure I'll reread before long.
At age 18, Annemarie oozes with confidence and talent as an equestrian athlete. She and her beloved horse Harry are soaring to the top of the eventing world, and riding a path -- carefully chosen by her overbearing Austrian Pappa -- toward the Olympics. During a final jump at competition, Harry shatters his leg and lands on top of Annemarie, crushing her and their future together. Harry's injuries are too massive to mend and he's put out of his misery on the spot. But Annemarie's misery just begins as she's pieced back together physically, yet remains broken emotionally.
She swears off horses and riding, for a life with Roger and their daughter Eva, in Minnesota far from her parents' New Hampshire horse farm. She earns a degree in technical writing and buries herself in a career editing software manuals to avoid the pain of coming to terms with her huge losses.
Twenty years after the accident it all comes crashing down. She is laid off at her job. Roger leaves her for a younger woman. Fifteen-year old Eva hates her. And Pappa is dying of ALS. Her life in shambles and harboring a rather self-absorbed sense of obligation to Mutti and Pappa's desperate situation, she drags Eva with her back home to the horse farm.
Instead of finding refuge, Annemarie sets off on a collision course with her past, present, and future, which happen to be contained in the body of a horse she names Hurrah -- who's almost identical to her Harry -- and the heart of Dan, the man she abandoned along with her passion in that other life. But she can't have either of them until she comes to terms with the pieces of her own shattered soul. So she smothers herself in failure.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I liked the writing style - very easy to read. But the main character I found frustrating and so unlikeable, that I just could not enjoy reading this book. Read morePublished on June 21 2014 by Amazon Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, good writing, great story with an unbelievable turn of events, kept me captivated the whole way through.Published on June 14 2014 by Lynn Gordon
I read this book shortly after it was released, which was coincidentally shortly after my own beloved Dillinger, a horse I owned and raised for 18 years died. Read morePublished on May 20 2013 by Patricia Connolly
I had a hard time with this book. It took me a long time to start to enjoy it and I did not end up finishing it.Published on Jan. 22 2013 by Elizabeth Miron
I read this after reading Water for Elephants so it was a bit of a letdown. Very simple to read with not much substance.Published on Jan. 3 2013 by dufferingirl
I loved "Water for Elephants" and was looking forward to another captivating read by Sara Gruen.
I was hugely disappointed to find that this reads like a drug store... Read more
I had to shed a tear or two while I was reading "Riding Lessons" You wouldn't think that when by the title of the book, but whether you are a horse lover or have ridden on a horse,... Read morePublished on Dec 12 2010 by Jordan L. Wares
I found it very difficult to feel compassion for the main character in this book. She was 37 but acted like a spoiled teenager much of the time, and expected her daughter, who was... Read morePublished on May 6 2009 by A. Houston