This post contains spoilers.
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
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The first line in The Horse Whisperer sets up the tone of the book quite well:
There was death at its beginning as there would be death again at its end.
After reading that line, how can you not read quickly through the first chapter to see who is going to die and how?
Horses And More
This story has all the components needed to suck you in: forbidden love, a life-threatening accident, a ruggedly handsome cowboy (Tom, the horse whisperer), a driven professional woman seeking healing for her daughter and herself (Annie), a teenage daughter in emotional pain (Grace), a supportive husband who fears he’s losing his family (Robert), and the big sky of Montana. Oh, and horses. Lots of horses.
While I’m not exactly a horse person, I liked almost everything about this novel. The characters were multi-dimensional, the storyline compelling, and the descriptions of Montana made me want to hop in the car and go see it for myself.
Initially I was shocked and angry with the story resolution. I wanted a fairytale ending, which, of course, wasn’t possible. “There would be death again at its end,” remember? (By the end of the book, I’d forgotten that tidbit of information.) The only question was, who would die?
Philosophy Of Life
Early in the book we learn Tom’s philosophy of life:
“I guess that’s all forever is,” his father replied. “Just one long trail of nows. And I guess all you can do is try and live one now at a time without getting too worked up about the last now or the next now.” It seemed to Tom as good a recipe for life as he’d yet heard.
In the next to the last chapter, Tom is brought face to face by the “next now” that his living “one now at a time” has created. Author Evans is pretty clear that Tom had options – he’s just not clear why Tom made the choice that he did. I was left wondering if Tom was really being altruistic in his final scene or if he took the easy way out of what had become a very messy situation.
Notwithstanding the ending, I really liked this novel. The writing was lyrical and I highlighted many quotes throughout that I thought had real depth to them. Here are a couple:
In chapter eight, Tom explains to his soon-to-be first wife why he is leaving college and going back to being a cowboy in Montana:
“When I was working as a hand, I just couldn’t wait to get back in at night to whatever I was reading. Books had a kind of magic. But these teachers here, with all their talk, well . . . Seems to me if you talk about these things too much, the magic gets lost and pretty soon talk is all there is. Some things in life just . . . are.”
In chapter twenty-two, Tom has just forced Grace’s horse Pilgrim through a process that both Annie & Grace perceived as emotionally cruel and designed to break Pilgrim’s spirit. Tom wants them to understand what really happened:
“He [Pilgrim] had the choice to go on fighting life or to accept it…. It was hard as hell, but he could have gone on. Gone on making himself more and more unhappy. But what he chose to do instead was to go to the brink and look beyond. And he saw what was there and he chose to accept it.”
“Sometimes what seems like surrender isn’t surrender at all. It’s about what’s going on in our hearts. About seeing clearly the way life is and accepting it and being true to it, whatever the pain, because the pain of not being true to it is far, far greater.”
Perhaps, at the end, Tom was simply seeing clearly the way life had to be for those he loved and being true to it.
Have you read The Horse Whisperer? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
- Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
- Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
- Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
- After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.
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90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017