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The haunting debut of a plainspoken, utterly original new voice: a novel about a girl on the cusp of her teenage years, who is growing up faster than she ever hoped she would.
When Teagan's father abruptly abandons his family and his farm, Teagan finds herself wading through the wreckage of what was once an idyllic life, searching for something--or someone--to hold on to. What she finds is Ian, short for Obsidian: the magnificent but dangerously headstrong horse her father left behind. But even as she grows close to Ian, patiently training him, trying to overcome her fear of him, Teagan is learning that life and love are fragile. With an unflinching eye and remarkable restraint, Talley English tells a piercing story about how families hold together and fall apart; about loss and grief; about friendship; about the blunt cruelty of chance; and, finally, about forgiveness.
About the Author
TALLEY ENGLISH received the Academy of American Poets' Gertrude Claytor Poetry Prize. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Horse, by Talley English, might look like another story about a girl and her horse, which it is and is more: an unflinching examination of what it is to be an animal, what it is to be human, the difference and overlap between the two, and how to manage that intersection. Anyone who’s ever tried to care for a creature from a hamster on up will love it and learn from it. Brilliantly written, and ruthlessly felt, this novel marks the debut of a talent strong for the long haul.” —Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising
“A sharp yet spare debut . . . English’s writing, which is hauntingly ascetic, mirrors the many things left unsaid in the French family.” —Booklist
“From National Velvet to Misty of Chincoteague, the girl-equine bond is a literary cliché, but English’s debut novel breaks that tradition. Written in short, elegant chapters resembling prose poems, Horse bucks traditional narrative form . . . Insightful yet free of sentimentality, English’s book reaches a surprising and resonant conclusion.”—The National Book Review
“To read Talley English’s wonderful debut novel is to learn something true: about riding a horse, about taking risks, about friendship, about parents who disappoint, about growing up. English evokes a vibrant world with grit, patience, and insight.” —Emily Culliton, author of The Misfortune of Marion Palm
“Here’s what this novel about a girl and a horse isn’t: it isn’t a YA story. It’s unmistakably a novel by a poet. Poetic, if that’s taken to mean nothing like flowery, but having the quality of serious poetry, words chosen and sentences made for clarity that surprises . . . You might close this novel in tears without knowing at first where they came from. They won’t have come only from sadness but also from beauty, more than you expected, and where you weren’t necessarily expecting it . . . Full of feeling.”—George Ensberger, Shawangunk Journal
“An original portrait of family disruption, the relationship of horse and rider, and ongoing grief . . . [Told] in limpid, affecting language.” —Library Journal
“Every animal in this novel—dog, goose, cat, horse, or human—comes across as utterly real. Talley English magically combines the narrative drive of a novelist with the linguistic sensitivity of a poet and the wisdom of a woman who has lived her life in nature. A book for anyone who loves horses and good novels.” —Pinckney Benedict, author of Dogs of God
“I am stunned by the book, which at least makes me feel as though I understand a little bit what it’s like to be a young woman going through more than she realizes at the moment, and how a connection with another animal can allow us to make sense of ourselves when nothing else seems to . . . Horse gets at some murky, painful, and honest stuff.”—Philip Martin, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
“Very well written . . . Tensions between Robert and Susanna French are skillfully rendered from the anxious, bewildered perspective of their daughter . . . English’s stripped-down prose works well to convey Teagan’s increasing alienation.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Talley English is a writer of power and perception. Horse is a word of one syllable like the titles of most chapters in this novel, which together compile a kind of lexicon of simplicity—a language of reference points for a girl who’s tuned in to baby goose and barn cat and dog—but, as Teagan says of her relationship with her parents, it’s “complicated,” too. The language spoken between human and horse is English, better than semiotics, a way of reading signs so supple that after much training together, the horse can sense the command if the human merely thinks it. Into this landscape where boundaries erase, must, of course, come grief to make a way for us to bridge beyond. This is a nuanced portrayal of the world we might remember wandering once, a memoir of a novel that gives us a language for our grief over the world we miss, the one in which animals were our brothers and sisters, when the world was big enough to hold all of us at once.” —Cathryn Hankla, author of Lost Places
“Horse is about the beauty of words. About the beauty of relationships. About the beauty of beauty. What the author has captured with this novel is a unique combination of stunning language, heartwarming and heartbreaking relationships, and gorgeous scenery and landscapes. Horse is an astounding debut, a multi-layered novel that clearly marks Talley English as a writer to watch.” —Scott Loring Sanders, author of Surviving Jersey