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Library Journal Review
While riding her horse Pilgrim on a snowy Saturday morning, young Grace Graves is involved in a horrible accident. She and the horse survive, but she loses a leg and Pilgrim becomes unmanageable. Annie, Grace's mother, senses that if Grace is to recover completely her horse must recover, too. When medicine and other traditional treatments fail to tame the horse, Annie moves Grace and Pilgrim to Montana in order to be near Tom Booker, a legendary figure who is rumored to be able to whisper sanity back into the minds of troubled horses. Tom works wonders for Pilgrim and Grace. Inevitably, Annie falls under his spell, and her marriage and family are put in opposition to her consuming love for Tom. This emotionally wrenching tale, read by Peter Coyote, is recommended for popular collections. [For a review of the unabridged edition of The Horse Whisperer, see Audio Reviews, LJ 3/15/96.-Ed.]Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
After all the fuss about the multimillion-dollar book and movie deals for this first novel from a British screenwriter and producer, the book itself is a mild anticlimax. It will undoubtedly be a major seller, however, for it touches a number of hot-wire themes: worldly success versus the simple life, the redeeming power of love, the mystique of animalsall set against a wide-screen background of Montana. But the screenwriter's hand has not been displaced by the novelist's creative imagination, and at too many points the book feels manipulative and schematic, the characters under-realized, just waiting to be filled out by star performers. The narrative begins with a frightful accident: teenage Grace Maclean, daughter of nice-guy lawyer Robert and tough, English-born magazine editor Annie, is out riding near their country home in upstate New York on a snowy day, and she and her beautiful horse Pilgrim are hit by a skidding tractor-trailer. Grace is crippled, Pilgrim desperately injured and mentally shattered. Annie takes things firmly in hand, finds a cowboy, Tom Booker, who is a wizard with horses and, with Grace and Pilgrim in tow, heads out to Montana in search of healing for the horse and ultimate recovery for Grace. Not surprisingly, she and the firm but gentle Booker fall in loveand this is where the frequent comparisons by early readers to The Bridges of Madison County were made. This is a much more sophisticated book, however, even if it draws some of the same morals about big-city angst and rustic simplicity. By far the best things are the scenes of horse-healing, which are genuinely fresh, surprising and seemingly authoritative. It is perhaps a reflection on the rest that Pilgrim's recovery is more affecting than the conventionally melodramatic resolutions for the human principals. But it will sell and sell. 600,000 first printing; Literary Guild main selection; Reader's Digest Condensed Books selection; movie rights to Robert Redford; simultaneous BDD audio; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The advance ballyhoo about this first novel, as well as the huge advance paid to its author, screenwriter Nicholas Evans, is more than enough to make the skeptical reader wince. Hold back those winces if you can, because this is a book of rare power and beauty, a story told simply but elegantly. Teenager Grace Maclean loses a leg in a terrible accident while riding her horse, Pilgrim. Grace and Pilgrim are both emotionally scarred as well as physically devastated by the accident. Realizing that the fates of her daughter and the horse are inextricably linked, Grace's mother, high-powered editor and journalist Annie Graves, launches an all-out campaign to find a "horse whisperer," someone who can cure troubled horses with only a calm voice and a soothing touch. She finds her savior in Tom Booker, a man well known in equestrian circles for his almost mystical skills with horses. Annie packs up Grace and Pilgrim, leaves Grace's father with his law practice in New York, and moves to Montana to try to convince the horse whisperer to help them. Most of the novel describes Tom's work to rebuild all the lives that have been shattered by the accident. Inevitably, love blossoms between the gentle horseman and the uprooted sophisticate, a love with both wonderful and tragic consequences. Expect this outstanding novel to be the talk of the season: it has a 600,000-copy first printing, and Robert Redford has already bought the movie rights for a cool $3 million. The numbers are remarkable, to be sure, but the most remarkable thing about this book is that it actually earns the great popularity it seems destined to enjoy. (Reviewed August 1995)0385315236George Needham
Kirkus Book Review
The heavily hyped first novel by English screenwriter Evans, who was advanced $3 million for his efforts, offers no surprisesand all the advantages of a formulaic plot. Annie Graves, the 43-year-old, hard-nosed British editor of a glossy New York magazine, is distracted from her dull marriage and hectic career by a freak accident upstate. Her teenaged daughter, Grace, has been hit by a truck and very nearly killed while riding horseback in a snowstorm. The girl loses a leg, and although horse Pilgrim survives in one piece, the accident turns him into a mad beast beyond anyone's control. Annie, stubborn in her insistence that no real tragedy can ever befall her, refuses to have Pilgrim put out of his misery and becomes obsessed with restoring the animal to health as a way of showing Grace that life can go on as before. She's heard stories of ``whisperers''charmers who can calm the wildest horsesand eventually finds one, Montana rancher Tom Booker. At first, Tom wants nothing to do with Annie, whom he sees as a pushy, rich, shallow East Coast cutout, or with Pilgrim, who seems beyond his help. But Annie won't give up: She packs Pilgrim into a trailer and drives him and Grace out to the Montana backwoods and throws herself at Tom's mercy. This sojourn in the wild, of course, has as much to do with the direction of Annie's life as it has for Grace's or Pilgrim's, and Tom, like all good Christ figures, is able to expel the demons of all who cross his path before he meets his own unhappy end. By that time, however, everyone has been healed--even Annie. This well-paced equine edition of The Miracle Worker, with a story obvious to the point of allegory, is not long on suspense. And the prose (``When they kissed, it seemed to Annie she was coming home'') adds little by way of depth. Pretty pale altogether, then, but the publisher will find a large, ready-made audience among devotees of New Age-style romance. (First printing of 600,000; film rights to Hollywood Pictures; Literary Guild main selection)