The Horse Whisperer Review: An Illicit Love Affair

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Overall, The Horse Whisperer (by Nicholas Evans) had been a fresh novel to me, a diversion from my usual preferences of suspense crime stories and heart warming inspirational dramas. The novel left me a bit reflective afterwards, if not a bit disappointed for it did not serve my expectations. In fact, as I was reading the book’s synopsis, I was trusting that the story would fall under my second preference, an inspirational, and that I’d pick up a few values when I’m done. It was a bit frustrating to discover that the novel was actually more of a love story, a genre I liked least. Nevertheless, credits are given to the synopsis provider who effectively disguised its real contents and to the film maker who made the book a little more interesting to readers than it should be.

In fairness, the novel did start grippingly. What was supposed to be a relaxed no-school winter day for teenager Grace and her horse Pilgrim ended tragically in an accident maiming both of them drastically and killing her friend Judith and her horse Gulliver. I started the book with much hankering as to how the story would be resolved for the girl and for the horse as well, whose crucial mending was linked to his owner’s. I believe that this is the most emotional part in the story, for although both girl and horse were recovering physically, they were both disintegrating internally.

This was the matter which Annie, a strong-willed woman whose success in career is substituted for her gradually failing role as a mother, struggled to resolve. And so she readily gave up a few weeks on work, bringing her daughter and the horse along, to camp in the horse whisperer’s ranch in Montana.

Tom Booker has the expertise with horses that has got problems with their owners, with an emphasis that the problem is the owners not the horses. At first, he was hostile towards Annie although he was also able to patch things up a little between her and her daughter. But a sad turn out of events caused Booker and Annie to fall in love with each other, damaging the mother-daughter relationship before they were even restored. This reduced my enthusiasm towards the end.

Anticlimax number one, the story would never be resolved for Grace and Pilgrim after all. Sure, they mended and were able to face a resurrected future. But the price was great and the recovery wasn’t even attributable to the troubles they underwent with camping at the ranch. Personally, I believe the healing part was because Grace realized that there were no resolutions to her tragic accident except acceptance, just as Pilgrim was left no choice in the end except to give in and let Grace ride again. 

Number two, I learned that Robert, the loving husband and dedicated father, had not been explored fairly as a character because in the end, he would just be dumped without good reason. His being urban should not have been blamed for being replaced forever by country man Booker. 

Number three, their illicit love affair could not be excused by Annie’s re-discovery of life or for Booker’s second chance at love that he nonchalantly threw away with his first wife. And the antagonistic way Booker’s sister-in-law always tried to get in between them should not have displayed the character as disdainful, no matter if her reason was jealousy.

The story and characters twisted in an unfashionable way however it made the story very authentic. Its realistic approach is in itself a credit, nevertheless, just as a person would react to the situation, perhaps he would not also like the turn of events. In the end, one’s anger towards Booker would subside when he offers his life to save Grace. But Annie, having Booker’s son, had been permanently tainted slightly but may be pardoned for her character somewhat softened in the end just as a real human being tends to become humble when he commits an un-willful sin.

So overall, I was left pondering by the novel, trying to level and reason things out as if I had been the one to commit the infidelity. Perhaps, this is actually acceptable to me, forgivable in some sense, but its effect on the characters and the story itself made me want to go back to the beginning of the story and change major things including a weekly visit from Robert or perhaps forcing Pilgrim right from the start to just let Grace ride again. 

But then again, I shouldn’t have expected something different if the synopsis had hinted that this was an illicit love story… I was thinking, I may not have read this book at all if that had been the case.

Overall rating: ⭐⭐ out of 5

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The Secret House Book Review: A Childhood Secret

Almost a score ago when I have first encountered this book and yet its story still holds a special part inside me, prompting a certain crave now to read the book again, even though at my present age, the delight in this experience had probably faded to a great extent. This book is special in a class of its own in that it marks the shift in my reading trek from the cozy picture books to a more complex and wordy short novel (it has chapters). Thanks to The Secret House by Carol Beach York for making the shift experience a gratifying one.

Early in primary school, we used to have library hour wherein we get to choose up to 4 books for weekend mind consumption. In one of those instances, I decided that I’ve outgrown the familiar characters and comfortable hard covers of the Puddle Lane series I usually borrowed. Instead, I started to look out for books from the shelves where a few students were gathering.

I pulled out a book in scrutiny: a black cat eyeing two scared girls in uniforms; behind them an incongruous wooden fence and a leafless tree; farther behind the fence was a rundown house that’s apparently haunted. Quite interesting, and the word “secret” added to the air of curiosity. Usually, it’s always “The Haunted House” and its commonness almost always kills the interest. I looked at the back cover, it says “Miss Plum's scary stories soon start to seem very real to the girls at the Good Day Orphanage, and soon Phoebe and Tatty begin to believe that the house down the street really is haunted.” 

By then, I have decided that this is worth a try even as I browse the pages. It had chapters, the first novel I’d ever try; nevertheless, gauging the text with a few illustrations thrown occasionally throughout the pages, it couldn’t have been very lengthy for me. Thus, the book was chosen singly, to give myself the whole weekend to concentrate on it.

I can hardly remember the event I have been reading the book, but I know I loved it. It’s very easy to be the adventurous and curious Phoebe who was the only girl to notice the house down the street and share the secret with her friend Tatty. She saw the black cat in Miss Plum’s story, the wizard’s canary, the red head behind the chair in the wizard’s parlor who was presumed to be the wizard’s first victim, and everyday, as Miss Plum’s story unfolds, Phoebe discovers new evidences.

In the end, the wizard got bored with the potions he had been trying out and decided to build a spaceship to rule other wizards in the outer space. But he found none and got lost in space forever. Phoebe and Tatty found clues of something built in the backyard the next day, but nothing concrete could verify their belief that the house was indeed the one on Ms. Plum’s story.

Soon afterward, a pleasant family with a baby moved in. Both girls knew that asking Miss Plum would confirm their belief but they were afraid that the question would be suspicious. 

And then one night, a girl at the Orphanage asked this hanging question to which Miss Plum replied, “By and by, a nice family moved in. They have a baby…” and both girls, including the readers are left to contemplate whether the wizard really did live in the Secret House.

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Hello world!

This is me. My life is an open book but very few would understand what's written in it.
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