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Riding Lessons Paperback – April 3, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Like The Horse Whisperer, Gruen's polished debut is a tale of human healing set against the primal world of horses. The Olympic dreams of teenaged equestrian Annemarie Zimmer end when her beloved horse, Harry, injures her and destroys himself in a jumping accident. In the agonizing aftermath, she gives up riding and horses entirely. Two decades later, she returns to her family's horse farm a divorcee, with her troubled teenaged daughter, Eve, in tow. There, her gruff Germanic mother struggles to maintain the farm and care for Annemarie's father, who is stricken with ALS. Although Annemarie decides (disastrously) to manage the farm's business, her attention quickly turns to an old and ostensibly worthless horse with the same rare coloring as Harry. Her long-denied passion for riding reawakens as she tracks the horse's identity and eventually discovers it to be Harry's younger brother. She must heal both horse and herself as she struggles with her father's deterioration, Eve's rebellion and her attraction to both the farm's new trainer and her childhood sweetheart Dan. Impulsive and self-absorbed, Annemarie isn't always likable, but Gruen's portrait of the stoic elder Zimmers is beautifully nuanced, as is her evocation of Eve's adolescent troubles. Amid this realistically complex generational sandwich, the book's appealing horse scenesdepicted with unsentimental affectionhelp build a moving story of loss, survival and renewal.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Annemarie, 18, is a world-class equestrienne who is sure to be a contender in the next Olympics. Then, a terrible jumping accident causes the death of her magnificent horse, Highland Harry, as well as severe injuries to Annemarie herself. Damaged as much in spirit as in body, she marries Roger, moves to another state, and gets a degree in English, vowing never to ride again. Twenty years of a more or less emotionally empty life go by until one fateful day when Annemarie loses both her job and her husband. With her defiant 15-year-old daughter in tow, Annemarie returns to her parents' riding school in New Hampshire, where her father is dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Suddenly, Annemarie is bombarded with all sorts of emotions and responsibilities, including the rekindling of an old romance and the discovery of a broken-down horse that looks remarkably like Highland Harry. Fans of Nicholas Evans' The Horse Whisperer (1995) and Jessica Bird's impressive debut, Leaping Hearts (2002), will also enjoy this emotion-packed book, which is so exquisitely written it's hard to believe that it's also a debut. Shelley Mosley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A lot of the characters were similar. Stubborn and frustrating. But that didn't deter me too much. I still enjoyed the plot. And I'm not a crazy horse girl. For readers who ARE crazy horse girls, this is a story I bet they can relate to.
Sara Gruen characters are flawed in ways that make them real. They make good and bad decisions without ever seeing the consequences. I ached at times for Annemarie because she made one mistake after another. At times I wanted to grab hold and shake her. If an author can evoke those reactions from me, I know I want to read more of their work. She explores guilt and forgiveness and family relationships in ways that allow us to see how hurtful unresolved issues can become. This is a great book.