The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss

It’s 1917 in the waning years of the romantic old west, when farmers and ranchers still used horses for work and transportation and automobiles and tractors were only just becoming commonplace.  19 year old Martha Lessen arrives in Elwha County in eastern Oregon looking for work breaking horses for families whose sons have left to fight the first World War in Europe.  Soon she’s living with George and Louise Bliss and “riding a circle” around Elwha County using her own style of horse whispering to break horses for different families.  Along the way, the shy tomboy starts to feel like part of the community and we learn about the joys and sorrows faced by the folks of Elwha County during the war years.  I’m a horse lover so I ate up the details about the horses, their different personalities and Martha’s ways of training them.  Her budding romance with a ranch hand on a neighboring ranch was also charming.  For me, the book was uneven, satisfying in parts and dragging a bit in others but still recommended.

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