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Riding Lessons: A Novel Paperback – April 3, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Annemarie's contemporary family issues ring painfully true, especially her relationship with her difficult mother and her rebellious daughter. But Gruen respects her reader and never resorts to typical solutions. Her father's illness is so poignantly rendered that I found myself biting my thumbnail as I read, aching for Annemarie. Gruen also manages a few deftly written comic scenes when Annemarie gets in over her head. The ending was perfect, no overwrought melodramatic scenes that first novelists can't seem to help, but a profound and moving, even elegant, wrap-up that left me fully satisfied.
I haven't been around horses very much, but the riding and stable scenes show that Gruen certainly has, and though the book appeals to everyone, horse people are going to absolutely love it. After a string of disappointing new novels on the shelves this year, Riding Lessons was a rare treat. Definitely looking forward to Gruen's next.
Years later, Annemarie is recovered, married with a 15 year old daughter, and has never ridden a horse since the death of Harry. Then her life falls apart again, one-two-three. One, she loses her job. Two, her daughter is failing school and her husband announces he's leaving her for a mistress. Three, Annemarie discovers her vital father has advanced ALS. Broken and in shock, Annemarie returns with Eva, her daughter, to the farm where she was raised to see and help care for her father.
With Eva out of control at fifteen (getting piercings, tattoos, smoking, wanting to date, running away, etc), her father deteriorated to barely functional in a wheelchair, and her husband shacked up with a much younger woman, Annemarie loses control of her life. She takes over management of the stables and discovers her mother (Mutti) was right when she said Annemarie couldn't handle the responsibility.
But in the midst of the chaos of her life comes a ragged horse saved by veterinarian and old boyfriend Dan, a liver colored brindle as rare as Annemarie's beloved Harry. Annemarie adopts the recalcitrant horse, rescued from a slaughter pen, and begins to work with him. But when she finds out the one-eyed horse is none other than Harry's brother Highland Hurrah, pronounced dead by former owner to collect a cool million-plus in insurance, she fears that Hurrah may be taken away from her.
Sara Gruen is a talent to be reckoned with.Read more ›
Well, it never happened. She never grew, never became more reasonable, never took an interest in others except how they reflected back on her. In a more mature writer's hands, this might've become a powerful portrait of a totally dysfunctional, tragic character.
At some point, we lost all curiosity about how the author would redeem this character, because it was clear she wouldn't. And because she was the narrator, we never learned much of interest about any of the other characters. Eventually, it became a challenge -- could we make it to the end?
We agreed if we were reading the book, we both would've tossed it across the room long ago. But we egged each other on, taking turns predicting plot twists and laughing uproariously at the heroine's self-absorbed descriptions of her trials.
At the end, we both burst into laughter -- at relief we had made it all the way and at the author's ham-handed romance novel descriptions. Unless you like bodice rippers, learn a lesson from our experience and run, run away from this book!
I found the story compelling and believable. Yes, as one reviewer points out, some of it seemed a bit of a stretch - but life IS like that - and people under stress Do do the strangest things.
I can easily see most any woman reacting in the very same ways. I know I can see myself trying to cook a dinner far beyond my abilities under the right circumstances - and taking the hair dye to the horse's hide - Yeah - I might have done that too, in similar circumstances.
The situation with the daughter, as well as the relationship with the Mom and Dad rang 100% true. So too, did the relationship with the vet and the Ex - and the horses - it all rang so true.
I was nearly moved to tears in the first chapter - just reading about the connection between horse and rider - the trust, the oneness that takes place, when it all "clicks." I never read a better description of what that feels like. And the telling of what its like to loose such an animal - that too, was done remarkably well.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a long time professional horseman the story was ok. References to instruction and Veterinary practice was well researched. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Mare Reardanz
Loved this read as I expected to - Sara is an amazing story teller!!!!Published 2 days ago by Dean Ann Zsamba
One of the best first chapters I've ever read. After that, it was really good, but not great. I kept getting upset with the main character, which is good in a way, since it means... Read morePublished 6 days ago by AvidReader
I really enjoyed this story, Annemarie was a difficult character to like but I suspect that was intentional. I enjoyed the writing and the story. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Angela Goodwin
I grew up with an older sister who was a Grande Prix horsewoman, so I found the story interesting for that reason, but the book grew on me with many other complex and realistic... Read morePublished 13 days ago by Jackie. Rider
After reading a few pages my reaction was Whaaaaat!? The first pages are filled with run on sentences, sentence fragments and the excessive use of and and because. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Kathryn Maxwell