From the Publisher
“All the traditional lingo and lore tucked into Barbara Dimmick's first novel is evidence of her inspired pursuit of her favorite animal, the horse. Luckily, she's equally good at depicting human characters.” Sally Eckhoff, The New York Times Book Review
“It's been a long time since I've read a well-written novel about horses that was salted with equine details right on target.... Dimmick really knows her stuff.... Instantly put In the Presence of Horses heads above Nicholas Evans' The Horse Whisperer.” The Orlando Sentinel
“Dimmick will keep readers intrigued as she injects suspenseful incidents into the narrative. Natalie's coming to terms with her life, and her jolting ride toward redemption turn out to be absorbing.” Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A woman unsettled by early loss--her parents, a sister, a beloved aunt and riding teacher--seeks solace in the unswerving loyalty of horses in a first novel more reminiscent of the stage play "Equus" than the recent books The Man Who Listens to Horses and The Horse Whisperer. Natalie Baxter, nearly 40 when the story begins, has spent her adult life fixated on horses, drifting from farm to farm until she finds herself perilously close to her hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and in the employ of horse owner Pierce Kreitzer. He is as loss-scarred as she is and even less able to surface from a quagmire of self-pity. Dimmick provides a fine look at Leheigh Valley, the working-class, Moravian-influenced towns that depended for so long on steel mills and subsidiary industries and paid a heavy price in accidental and chemically-caused deaths. Natalie has felt cut off from her roots ever since she left the valley, impelled to escape memories of a complicated childhood. Now she is drawn to a hobbled black horse named Twister that had belonged to Pierce's dead sister. She establishes an almost mystical relationship with the horse, but when she thinks "He has the mind of God," readers may not quite share the spiritual bond. And since Twister has a degenerative disease, another loss is inevitable for Natalie. Natalie herself is sometimes all insight, sometimes blind. Yet Dimmick will keep readers intrigued as she injects suspenseful incidents into the narrative.
Memo to publishers: No more books about horses aimed at anyone over the age of 12! Following hard on the heels of Nicholas Evans's The Horse Whisperer (LJ 7/95) comes a pretty lame first novel. Natalie, the heroine of this plot-heavy but surprisingly boring effort, is galloping away from the pain of losing everyone she ever cared about (especially, but not exclusively, a beloved sister). She ends up on a Pennsylvania horse farm working for Pierce, a man who has (surprise!) lost everyone he ever cared about. In the process of falling in love with Pierce, Natalie discovers that she and a beautiful horse named Twister can somehow sense each other's thoughts--no need for whispering here. The author trots briskly through the ups and downs of horse-farm life (many sick animals), but it is hard to care what happens to the four-footed or two-footed animals that populate the book. Marguerite Henry, where are you and Misty of Chincoteague when we need you? Not recommended.--Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
A first novel about a woman who loves horses but finds humans a tougher challenge is more of a bumpy trot than an exhilarating gallopdespite some convincingly rendered settings. Ever since Natalie Baxter's father died of cancer, her sister Lucy of a drug overdose, and her favorite Aunt Vee of suicide, Natalie's been running away from home (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) and commitment. An accomplished rider, she has traveled the country working at stables but has forced herself to move on whenever she felt herself developing any emotional ties. Now in her late 30s, she's back in Pennsylvaniaagainst her better judgment. Thirtyish communications teacher Pierce Kreitzer wants her to fulfill his dead sister Allie's dying request to take care of the horses (especially a black one called Twister) and teach riding. The farm and the horses have been neglected as Piercea photographer by vocation, still grieving over Allie's deathspends hours in his darkroom. While Natalie cleans the place up and rides the horses, she finds herself drawn to Twister, but he's got a deformed foot and soon has to be put down by the local vet. This means more grief for Natalie, though she's growing attached to the other horses and to her pupils. Pierce, however, remains an enigma, and when Natalie discovers a cache of photos he secretly took of her, she flees to Bethlehem, fearing that he's in love with heror worse. There, finally, she revisits her family's history and learns the truth about her aunt's death. Ghosts laid to rest, she heads back to Pierce's farmonly to find a horrible reprise of her past. Granted that horses are "hot," but there's something unbalanced about a story inwhich the four-footed characters have more personality than the two-footed ones.