The Horse Whisperer  

by Nicholas Evans  

1995  Dell Publishing  

451 pages

I saw this movie years ago but didn’t remember anything about it. The writing by Evans feels above mediocre, but not poetic or memorable. There were only two short passages where I felt oh, I just have to mark this but it was to express a personal connection rather than poeticism or beauty. The novel is much more plot-based; that is what kept me turning pages. The plot is well-paced; nothing takes too long to brew or happen. I was truly motivated to find out what would happen next. The chapters are rather short, but not uniformly so. The novel begins with a horrific accident and it is graphic. It gave me a feeling like hold up…I didn’t sign up for this. The terrible scene is needed, though, to set up the rest of the story. This novel feels more about emotional psychology than anything else, but we also see themes of marriage, mothers and daughters, career, expertise, and–I have to admit–romance. 

The novel begins with a quote that I like from “On Trust in the Heart” by Seng-t’san

“Pursue not the outer entanglements,

Dwell not in the inner void;

Be serene in the oneness of things,

And dualism vanishes by itself.”

1  We meet Grace Maclean and her father, Robert. Along with Annie (mother/wife), they live in a New York apartment on Central Park West. In another area and unrelated is Wayne P. Tanner, a truck driver. Mrs. Dyer owns the horse stables where Judith and Grace, both young teenagers, learned to ride. It is a beautiful morning with freshly fallen snow. Judith and Grace go out before anyone is up to go horse riding. They collide with Tanner’s eighteen-wheeler and Judith and her horse do not survive.

2  Annie’s daughter Grace loses her leg from the knee down and is in a coma. They do not know if she is going to live.

3  Physical therapists work with Grace and similarly (although not in a coma), her horse, Pilgrim. Will Grace even live?

4  Pilgrim seems more traumatized than anyone. Grace doesn’t want to ride again.

5  Pilgrim seems irredeemable. Grace gets a prosthetic leg.

6  Annie (who is a top magazine editor) researches horse whisperers.

7  Annie comes across the name Tom Booker as being an expert in how to rehabilitate traumatized horses. We get to see Tom at work.

8  We learn a little about Tom’s past.

9  Annie finds Tom who comes to check out Pilgrim. Annie is at work.

10  When Tom arrives early to a farm where Pilgrim is being housed, he does not like what he sees.

11  Annie makes contact with Tom Booker. His advice is to put Pilgrim down.

12  In secret, Annie rearranges everyone’s life to take her daughter and Pilgrim to work with Tom. She feels that if the horse can be saved, so can her daughter. She and Grace will take the horse and go while Robert stays home to work. Annie can work remotely.

13  Grace is not speaking to her mother as they take the horse across country.

14  Not much

15  Tom starts to feel if he helps the horse he’ll help the entire family.

16  They all watch Tom work his magic. There is a little flirtation between Tom and Annie.

17  They all spend the day working and bonding. Annie and Grace will move into the guest house on the ranch where Tom, his brother, and his brother’s family live (along with a few ranch hands).

18 and 19  –

20  Tom hears Grace’s entire story and does some research on how to help Pilgrim.

21  “Annie’s grandmother was a small, malicious woman with a tight white perm through which the pink of her scalp glowed like a warning” (260).

“Her father had been a bounding, joyous man. The only one who ever thought she was of value” (261).

Grace simply won’t talk to her mother but tells Tom all she can remember of the accident then tells her dad she feels better after talking. Annie hears everything from afar.

22  With Joe, Grace feels so comfortable that he talks her into taking her first post-accident horse ride, but not on Pilgrim.  

23  Annie’s dinner party has more than one fight and Grace silently starts her period for the first time. With that plus not having a leg, she feels no boy will ever want her.

24  Robert hears rumors that maybe Annie’s job is in jeopardy. 

25  A barn dance where Grace flirts with Joe and Annie with Tom.

26  Tom makes major headway with Pilgrim. Grace helps. Annie doesn’t even know if she wants to keep her job.

27  They all go on the summer cattle drive. Tom and Annie finally kiss. Everyone is going out of town next week; is it time to go back East? Robert is coming to visit.

28  Grace needs a new prosthetic fitting. Robert comes to visit.

29  Everyone is nice to Robert and while he and Annie have sex that night Annie thinks of Tom.

30  Grace needs a new prosthetic but can only get it in New York. Annie and the farm hands will run the farm while everyone is out of town next week.

31  Tom and Annie finally make love. 

32  [There are a couple of ichy moments where Evans is trying to imagine what it feels like to be a woman after sex. Blech.] While they have the chance, the lovebirds take a few days off on horseback.

33  This chapter will make you cry: how Grace finally rode Pilgrim.

34  Annie tells Tom she wants to leave her family for him. He basically says, “No, you don’t.”

35  Grace overhears information about her mother and Tom being together. The next morning she takes Pilgrim with the intention to burn down the summer cabin high in the mountains. Before she reaches her goal, she gets trapped with a herd of wild horses. Tom saves her, but there is a twist.

The final chapter has another twist!

Well worth the read if you like romance, horses, prosthetics, and wide-open spaces.

Published by

tattooedprofessor

I'm a doctor of philosophy in Literary and Cultural Studies which makes me interested in everything! I possess special training in text analysis, African American literature, Women and Gender Studies, American lit, World Lit and writing. I work as an assistant professor of English in Memphis.

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