- Series: Vintage Contemporaries
- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 4, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307743608
- ISBN-13: 978-0307743602
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 175 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mare: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – October 4, 2016
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“Extraordinary. . . . [A] magnificently hopeful novel.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Captivating. . . . A fascinating exploration of urban despair, female depression and sexual awakening.” —The Washington Post
“Brave and bold. . . . The range of Gaitskill’s humanity is astonishing.” —Los Angeles Times
“Gaitskill is such a preternaturally gifted writer that nearly every page of The Mare shimmers with exacting and sometimes hallucinatory observation.” —The New York Times
“A raw, beautiful story about love and mutual delusion.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR
“[An] extraordinary artistic achievement. . . . Bracing in its rigorous truth-seeking, subtle and capacious in its moral vision, Gaitskill’s work feels more real than real life and reading her leads to a place that feels like a sacred space.” —The Boston Globe
“Remarkably tender. . . . A deeply affecting tribute to basic human connection.” —Entertainment Weekly
“The Mare is indebted, in its narrative strategy, to As I Lay Dying, another novel that employs a host of recurring narrators to get at the tangled intricacies of family life. . . . [Velvet] is that most wonderful of fictional creations: a convincing child who manages to be a captivating and perceptive narrator.” —The New Yorker
“[Gaitskill’s] gift is to unfold emotions, no matter how petty or upsetting, and describe them with disarming patience. . . . The result often feels both primal and electric, something like a latter-day D. H. Lawrence.” —Chicago Tribune
“Piercingly poignant. . . . Give[s] eloquent voice to the ineffable thoughts and feelings experienced across boundaries of age and race and class and gender—and even, in this case, species.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Poetic, uplifting.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Gaitskill is more than a gifted story-teller. She is an enchanter. . . . The power of [her] writing comes, in part, from her ability to evoke strong emotions without offering the resolutions readers have come to expect.” —New Republic
“The Mare ripples with internal emotional movement, but it is also a physical novel. . . . Nothing stands still, not the horses, not the violent mother or the would-be mother, not the vicious jealous friends, not the boyfriend or husband, not the sky.” —Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books
“The Mare is classic Gaitskill. . . . In [her] hands, even the most raw and fleeting moments drip with complexity.” —Elle
“Gaitskill builds her story through rotating first-person narratives. . . . [Her] structure allows her to spotlight the limitations in every character’s perspective while nevertheless fostering sympathy for each of them. And the voices ring true.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“To know these characters and to judge this book, you have to read every word, and be ready to have your own prejudices challenged.” —The Buffalo News
“I can think of no other living writer who so deftly feels into the corners of each of her characters’ emotions.” —Liz Cook, The Kansas City Star
About the Author
Mary Gaitskill is the author of the story collections Bad Behavior, Because They Wanted To (nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award), and Don’t Cry, and the novels Veronica (nominated for a National Book Award) and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories.
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Top customer reviews
While Velvet's mother is verbally and physically abusive, Ginger is also flawed. Gaitskill explores the meaning of family, addiction, and adultery through the relationship Ginger has with Velvet. Ginger can experience life in ways she could not before Velvet came into her life. As Velvet grows into a teenager and becomes more independent, Ginger is forced to look at her own life and take more responsibility for it.
Velvet has an uncanny ability to read other people and especially the horses. Through her relationship with Fugly, the mare she renames Fiery One, the cycle of her mother's abuse stops affecting her inner self. Like the mare, she is wild and scarred and beautiful and cannot be controlled. Through the lens of Velvet's relationship with Fiery One, Gaitskill explores teenage love, teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation of minors, racial discrimination, socioeconomic discrimination, lack of self esteem, and a teenage girl's love for an abusive mother.
Gaitskill's writing is engaging. The chapters are short, named after the main characters, and written in their points of view, alternating back and forth. The novel is a page turner, and in the top two or three I've read in 2017.
Velveteen, who is from inner city Brooklyn, comes to stay in the country with Ginger and her husband Paul for a two week visit, as part of the Fresh Air Fund organization. The couple, who have decided they might want to adopt an older child, decide to “test the waters to see what it might be like to have somebody else’s fully formed kid around”. Velveteen has seen a lot in her 12 years. She has an absentee father, a mother who works long hours but never has enough money to make ends meet and is faced with the drama and cruelty present at her tough inner city school. Ginger is a 47 year old artist, and recovering alcoholic, who is fighting her own private battles with her past. Paul, Ginger's husband is at first reticent and then concerned that his wife may be getting too close to Velveteen and eventually her family. Silvia Vargas, Velveteen's mother is both verbally and physically abusive to her daughter. It is clear that she loves her, but does not know how to express her feelings, given her past and own psychological limitations. Silvia is also jealous of the relationship between her daughter and the white woman. These characters are flawed, their lives are complicated and the connections they make with each other are manifold and tenuous. Cautiously, Ginger and Velveteen form a bond that makes up for their feelings of inadequacy and rejection. It is also Fiery Girl, the damaged and hard to tame horse at the stables down the road that begins Velveteen on her quest for identity, through a bumpy path filled with obstacles that is both lovely and redemptive. Velveteen has a gift with horses and is a natural in the saddle. Her dream is to enter a competition but will her chaotic life keep getting in the way?
The authors writes with tremendous heart and her poetic description of her characters’ feelings and inner dialogue is revelatory. Velveteen is a sympathetic character and readers will be drawn to her. Velveteen reminds us of what is it was like to be a teenager, the times we have been selfish in our singular pursuit of what we wanted and the foolish mistakes we made along the way. The Mare is about the beauty of taking a chance on a new relationship, the need for family, acceptance, and the ways we try to escape how we were raised and the way we are inevitably drawn back into our histories. It also typifies the healing power of animals, who enrich and transform our lives with their loyalty. This was one of those unforgettable reads that leads to powerful emotions. One of the best novels I have ever read.