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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2000
Unlike some other reviewers I wasn't expecting this book to be a great work of modern literature but rather a beautiful story that everyman could relate to with a bit of thought. I wasn't disappointed. Maybe the author was a screenwriter and maybe the sentimental story itself is set out to read like a movie plot unfolding, none of that, to my way of thinking, diminished the simple zen beauty of the authors prose which reflected the search for an inner calm in each of the main characters.
Others here have commented on the gore and adrenalin surging accident of Grace and the conveniently named Pilgrim and I from similar experiences found it traumatic - for the horse, but not for Grace herself because her story is really the means by which she and her mother find grace. Her mother Annie is forced to take stock of a life that she fears is not satisfying and which casts an effect on her child and her marriage.
If Tom, in a typical display of the western horseman, seems wooden through a lack of dialogue it is because he relates to the world through the horses he works with, espousing the simple wisdoms of a man who has learned to read what is subtle and unspoken. His loneliness is echoed in the souls of Pilgrim, Grace and Annie.
That Annie and Tom predictably fall in love and betray her marriage vows, in a different rendition of Graces relationship with Pilgrim, is not an issue. It is that only through the catalyst for change in Tom and the nature of his work with Pilgrim we find the key to the characters, that they too must sacrifice the instinct for self preservation to be remade with maturity.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2007
I was drawn to the story because the horse and the family needed healing on many levels. I wanted to know more about how the horse and teenager were rehabilitated. Tom Booker, a.k.a. the Horse Whisperer, was an appealing character because he was a very balanced person. It was his role to be the healer. He had his wounds, but used them intuitively to help others. The author portrayed him as a spiritual sort of guy. Suddenly, we are led to believe that he has an epiphany: He needs Annie! Unfortunately, their mutual desire was portrayed on a superficial level. Tom kept remembering her eyes, her smile, etc. This was teenage crush material; not at all in keeping with his stature or implied integrety. Furthermore, without giving the ending of the book away, Tom's final decision was totally unbelievable to me, considering the fact that he'd earned the teenage girl's trust. Just what she needed, more fodder for Post-Traumatic Stress disorder!

The book begins in a promising way, especially when Tom comes on the scene. However, the ending just didn't live up to my expectations. I skipped the sex scenes and think the main characters would have been a little better off if they had, too!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I can easily see why "The Horse Whisperer" became a bestseller. It is a poignant story of tragedy and healing, one that moves at a quick pace, manages to be both predictable in its overarching story, yet surprising in its details, and is told in clear - though somewhat bland - prose. It is by no means great literature, but as a holiday or `cold winter night' read, it fits the bill.

Thirteen-year old Grace Mclean is the victim of a horrific horse-riding accident (involving ice, a truck and two panicked horses) that claims the life of her friend and leaves her with an amputated leg. Damaged almost beyond repair, her horse Pilgrim is deranged with terror and pain - but Grace's mother Annie refuses to put the animal down, instinctively feeling that her daughter's ability to heal her body and soul is somehow connected to that of her horse.

Finding no support from any of the local vets, Annie tracks down a man named Tom Booker who is renowned throughout Montana for his skills as a "horse whisperer," a man who seems to instinctively understand and heal damaged horses. When Tom initially refuses to help, believing it to be too late for Pilgrim already, Annie (a business woman who is not used to getting no for an answer) packs up the horse and her daughter, and makes the drive to the Booker Ranch to demand the help that her entire family desperately needs.

It's an intriguing premise, and Nicholas Evans expertly creates the loving but tentative bonds between Annie, her husband Robert and their insightful, but rather sullen daughter Grace. Likewise, the disintegrating relationship between mother and daughter (which was never particularly strong to begin with) is poignantly portrayed as both Annie and Grace attempt to define, and then grasp what they each want from one another. Paralleling this internal struggle is Tom's work on Pilgrim, as he gradually leads the creature back to sanity, with Grace looking on in wonder. Added to the mix is the rest of the Booker family: Tom's brother Frank and his wife Diane, and their three children. Of these three, twelve-year old Joe (who would appear to be more Tom's son than Frank's) forms a sweet bond with Grace and coaxes her back into the saddle.

Out of all the characters, it is Grace that comes across the strongest and most sympathetic. Surviving her traumatic ordeal, the young teen struggles with the burden of her new body and the inevitable change in the way other people treat her. Determined never to ride again, she is furious when her mother drags her across the country in the attempt to save Pilgrim, and it is a very rewarding reading experience to find this young woman find herself again. It is surprising that a male writer can capture the nuances of a teenage girl so well, but I'll vouch for the consistency of her character since I was her age when I first read this book!

The book is at its strongest when dealing with this slow emergence of self-worth, love and redemption between mother, daughter and horse, but unfortunately Evans looses control of his own story when he introduces a love affair between Tom and Annie. In short, it just doesn't quite work. There is no sense of a lead-up to their sudden attraction to one another, and when it does come, it feels more like lust than any sort of meaningful romance. Likewise, some of the prose used in their love scenes is downright cringe-worthy: "To have her so close and yet so inaccessible was like some exquisite form of torture." Yeesh.

This also puts an even more traumatic spin on Grace's recovery. For two adults to act so irresponsibility when a child is involved erases all sense of sympathy I might have felt for their attraction, not to mention the fact that Annie is committing adultery. And since Robert is portrayed as nothing but a good, decent man, the whole thing becomes even more incomprehensible. The forced love-affair would have worked better had Annie and Tom reigned in their emotions (which interestingly enough, is what happens in the movie adaptation) - or if the whole relationship had simply been based on a platonic growth of mutual respect between them.

When the truth inevitably comes out, the resulting chaos is too abrupt and then just as quickly brushed under the rug again. It would be wrong to give away the ending, but it takes only a glance at the other reviews to see that it feels like Evans has taken the easy-way out of a difficult situation. It disregards the feelings of several characters (especially Grace's) and an "epilogue" set several months later tries too hard to convince us that everyone is coping just fine with the upheaval in their lives. There is a phrase that Tom uses during his healing sessions with Pilgrim: that the darkness comes right before the dawn. In the telling of this story, Evans seems to leave us in the darkness, before quickly reassuring us that the dawn did indeed come - without precisely *showing* us.

Evans is sincere in the messages of hope, healing and the worthiness of life that he captures throughout the course of the novel, and despite the unsatisfactory conclusion, there is enough here to recommend "The Horse Whisperer." It's certainly not a book that will change your life, but it is memorable and the characters and their situation are compelling enough to hold your interest throughout.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2008
When thirteen-year-old Grace decides to go for an early winter morning horse ride with her friend Judith in upstate New York, she expects it to be a refreshing way to start the day. Instead, they are victims of a horrible accident, when they lose control and their horses slide down an ice-covered slope just under the truck, whose brakes also give way in the slippery snow.
Judith and her horse are killed. Grace and her horse, Pilgrim, save their lives, but Grace loses her leg, and Pilgrim loses his sanity.
Grace's mother, Annie, an editor of the prestigious magazine, is in her Manhattan office, when she gets a call from her husband Robert with the horrible news. Annie, who is completely absorbed in her work, ambitious, selfish and distanced from family life, seeing her daughter in the stupor and her gentle husband being helpless, experiences guilt, grief and desire to help her daughter. She realizes she can help Grace only by helping Pilgrim - and she sets out to do so. After library research she decides to employ a horse whisperer - and the one whose reputation catches her attention is Tom Booker. After lots of persuasion and effort on Annie's side, Tom finally agrees to work with Pilgrim and the long period of changes for the whole family begins...

Indeed, "The Horse Whisperer" is not an example of great literature. It does not aspire to be. This novel is a fine specimen of the popular fiction genre -there is a good story, uncomplicated plot with a moral message, describing and evoking powerful emotions in unsophisticated style. How to cope with grief and child's tragedy, how to reinvent yourself and get connected with the people close to you, how to feel more than the power of money and career and how to get out of the vicious circle of modern life guided by commercials - this is what this book was about for me. Very basic, perhaps banal, but true and honest. I read it with interest, very fast and thought about it for a while. There are some artificial situations, the best example being Tom changing his mind about treating Pilgrim. The ending is definitely the weakest point of this novel, it is improbable, unbelievable and looks like the author has run of ideas. I think that Evans could not get out of the tangle he created with Annie, Tom, Grace and Robert and because of this he decided to end the book in this fashion, but it is weak. Anyway, it is a better ending than the alternative offered by the movie, which is horrendous. The movie, although it made the book famous, is much worse, mainly because of Robert Redford, who should not have cast himself as Tom (Scarlett Johansson as Grace is very good and Kristin Scott Thomas as Annie - passable, but Tom is a disaster). If you wonder what to choose, read the book. It is a good pastime.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2001
Talk about characters that nauseate a person! A married woman, living in trendy NYC, with a high-powered job, an educated and loyal husband, a spirited daughter, and what does she do? She sleeps with a man (who happens to be a rugged BUT gentle cowboy) because the novelty of someone new is enough to convince her that she needs this passionate fling to fulfill some emotional hole in her pity-pooh life. Oh, cry for me...my life is empty and I am blue, blue, blue, boo-hoo! Nay, she even feels somewhat justified in undertaking this betrayal of her promises and her responsibilities to her family and herself. After all, this is the land of get everything and when you've got everything, get some more. This women's needs supersede everyone else's, including her emotionally and physically wounded daughter's. This book is exactly the kind of garbage that convinces people that fantasy is reality and that consequence means nothing if the short-term satisfaction is attained. Should I even use the word, "satisfaction," since this never seems to be gotten? Save me from any more books like this one!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2000
A powerful and wonderfully written book, "The Horse Whisperer" tells the tragic story of a girl who has been physically and emotionally wounded during a violent horseback riding accident. In addition, her horse, Pilgrim, is also hurt very badly. Annie Maclean, the girl's desperate mother, contacts Tom Booker, a horseman who is able to communicate with the animals that he works with. Soon after, Annie and her daughter Grace head out to Tom's ranch, with their mad horse in tow. As the story unfolds, Tom and Annie fall in love. However, will the girl (Grace) and her beloved horse ever recover? Find out for yourself by reading this amazing novel. I recommend "The Horse Whisperer" to anyone looking for a sensational read.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2002
I started reading this book only knowing that it involved a mystical sort of man who could communicate with horses. This concept sounded intriguing. The novel turns out to be more about the thoroughly unlikable Annie character. She is is a self-centered woman, who makes one grand gesture to help her daughter by visiting the Horse Whisperer. It is obvious from the start that there will be a romance, but I could see no reason why Tom (the title character) should have any interest in Annie. It makes you feel sorry for Annie's husband, who seems like a nice enough guy, but is left behind in New York. The horse is really the most interesting character, but he just falls into the background as the story moves on.
The wild horses in the story could have been an interesting metaphor, but Evans has an annoying habit of using symbolism and then explaining it too. It is as if he thinks his readers are too stupid to figure it out on their own.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2001
After all the hype I thought this book would be a profound insight into the relationships between people and animals and other people. How disappointed I was when I got almost all the way through and discovered it was little more than a romance novel! Heaving bosoms and all...
I suppose without any hype I might call it an impressive first novel, but I found most of the relationships stereotypical and the ending totally inconsistent with what little character development there was.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2001
This book really almost had me up until the last 50 pages or so. Interesting story, well told, little bit of tragedy, little bit of heartache, little bit of romance, sounds like a good recipe for some light weekend reading. Then the ending! If you don't know it, skip this part, but give me a break! True love conquers all! Even birth control! All is right with the world! All I ask is the semblance of realism. What a load of horse manure (pun most definitely intended.) Waste your time if you dare, but be prepared to discus this book through the window when you've finished.
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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2006
I don't normally write these reviews, but I feel a responsibility to other readers to warn them away from this book. If you don't want to know any details about the book, you have the option of not reading this review, but, if you want to know what you're letting yourself in for, read on. If you are a horse lover, I srongly advise against reading The Horse Whisperer. If you want a romantic love story, you should also look elsewhere. If you want insight into dealing with a trauma, so sorry, no luck here. The book opens with a graphic description of a violent accident involving a girl and her horse, which results in death. Though I found these scenes truly disturbing, I hoped the trip taken by the girl and her mother to find an expert who could help to heal the girl and her horse would prove redeeming somehow. Instead, the experience was muddled and pointless. The few instances involving the "whisperer" attempting to heal the horse from its trauma struck me as something that would further traumatize the poor animal. Nothing he does ever seems to break through and cause the horse any improvement. Additionally, the mother appears to have no purpose in the story except wandering aimlessly around the farm, occasionally cheating on her husband with this man, and becoming pregnant with his child. The book's focus then turns almost completely to this ill-advised affair which doesn't really have any chemistry to it. The man and the mother don't seem that attracted to each other, and evidently only end up together because the plot required it of them. During all this, the girl's psychological problems resulting from the accident are basically ignored. She pretty much drops out of sight until the very close of the book when she is taken by the horse whisperer to witness another graphically brutal occurrence, which ends in another horrific death. Apparently, what we are to glean from this book is that, if you are a woman who can't have children with your husband, getting knocked up by another man will save your marriage. If you are a young girl who happens to witness a violent death, nothing will cure you except witnessing another violent death. If you're a horse, you can just figure things out for yourself. The fact that everyone seems blissfully happy after all this absurdity, just feels as though the author got bored with what he was writing and figured he had to wrap it up with a Hollywood ending somehow so he could get it off to the publisher quickly. In the end, I see no reason to waste your time with this book. I wish I could get back the hours of my life I spent on it.
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