This week we’re going a bit out of order and starting with our analysis of Nichols Evans’s The Horse Whisperer from a writer’s perspective. (The discussion for this novel started here.)
This post contains spoilers.
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
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About Nicholas Evans:
British author Nicholas Evans started out as a journalist and moved into film making. The Horse Whisperer was his debut novel.
At times it is unclear who is the protagonist in this novel, particularly in the beginning. The first scene introduces Grace Maclean, a thirteen-year-old girl who lives in Upstate New York and loves to ride her horse Pilgrim. Soon after, the narration jumps to her mother Annie and her father Robert.
Grace is involved in a horrible accident which results in her leg being amputated above the knee, and leaves Pilgrim scarred and unmanageable. At this point the story wanders away from Grace, and she is revealed to be the impact character who sets things in the story in motion. Now the main story focuses on her parent’s responses, particularly her mother’s.
In a desperate attempt to save her daughter, who has become dangerously withdrawn, Annie realizes healing the horse might be the key to her daughter’s recovery and she looks for help. She contacts Tom Booker, a man who has a magical touch with horses, a “horse whisperer.” Because of the book’s title, and frankly because he’s a really cool guy, the reader might wonder if Tom is the protagonist. No, the story more or less follows Annie. That is, except when it follows Grace. By the end, however, it is clear Annie is the protagonist.
The lack of a prominent protagonist doesn’t hurt the story, though. The narration flows between characters like they are actors moving on and off the stage. Whose story it is doesn’t matter as much as the story itself.
Tom touched the brim of his hat.
“A jogger, huh?”
She made a mock haughty face. “I don’t jog, Mr. Booker. I run.”
“That’s lucky, the grizzlies around here only go for joggers.”
Her eyes went wide. “Grizzly bears? Are you serious?”
Evans does a good job contrasting Annie’s formal voice against Tom’s lightly teasing banter. He also manages to have his characters sound American without trying too hard.
Public domain photograph of Horse in Montana via Visualhunt.com
The novel starts out in Upstate New York and then travels to the wide open skies of Montana. Although he grew up in England, Nicholas Evans has spent a lot of time in United States and his familiarity with the different regions shows.
From a storytelling perspective, this novel evokes a strong emotional response, but it doesn’t follow the typical rising conflict format. In fact, it is almost the opposite. Tragic events bookend the rest of the story, with a death in the beginning and a death at the end, but it is really the horrible events in the beginning have the biggest impact.
Nicholas Evans makes some unusual choices regarding plot and characterization in The Horse Whisperer, but in the end the powerful storytelling wins out. It is an older novel, but it feels like it has withstood the test of time.
Did you watch the movie? Some of the details were changed at the end, like Tom and Annie do not have a sexual relationship, and Tom does not die. Which ending do you prefer? Why?
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90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017
This novel won the Pulitzer Prize