Riding Lessons

Riding Lessons

3.9 184
by Sara Gruen
     
 

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As a world-class equestrian and Olympic contender, Annemarie Zimmer lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal. Then, at eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry, the beautiful horse she cherished.

Now, twenty years later, Annemarie is coming home to her dying father's New Hampshire horse farm. Jobless and abandoned,

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Overview

As a world-class equestrian and Olympic contender, Annemarie Zimmer lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal. Then, at eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry, the beautiful horse she cherished.

Now, twenty years later, Annemarie is coming home to her dying father's New Hampshire horse farm. Jobless and abandoned, she is bringing her troubled teenage daughter to this place of pain and memory, where ghosts of an unresolved youth still haunt the fields and stables—and where hope lives in the eyes of the handsome, gentle veterinarian Annemarie loved as a girl . . . and in the seductive allure of a trainer with a magic touch.

But everything will change yet again with one glimpse of a white striped gelding startlingly similar to the one Annemarie lost in another lifetime. And an obsession is born that could shatter her fragile world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

When the main character in a novel is as annoying as a boil, an audio performer must be thrilled at the chance to portray someone who isn't particularly nice or competent. Maggi-Meg Reed's Annemarie shouts, cries, whines, cajoles and lies her way through escalating crises. Reed is superb. She does an equally adept rendering of the other characters, including Annemarie's mother, with her thick Austrian accent and tight-lipped stoic voice. Eve, Annemarie's daughter, is a perfectly petulant teenager, speaking to her mother in a strident and querulous tone. A local policewoman has such a perfect New Hampshire accent that one wonders why the other locals don't. Despite the unsympathetic Annemarie, Reed's stellar performance makes Gruen's 2004 debut novel hard to turn off. A Harper paperback (Reviews, Mar. 1, 2004). (Apr.)

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From the Publisher

"...a moving story of loss, survival and renewal."
—Publisher's Weekly

“...so exquisitely written it's hard to believe that its also a debut.” [starred review]
Booklist

“Reed's stellar performance makes Gruen's 2004 debut novel hard to turn off.”
Publishers Weekly

Booklist
“...so exquisitely written it's hard to believe that its also a debut.” [starred review]
Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061241086
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/03/2007
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
161,959
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.93(d)
Lexile:
770L (what's this?)

Meet the Author


SARA GRUEN is the best selling author of Riding Lessons and Water for Elephants. She is an animal lover who lives with her husband, three children, five cats, two goats, a dog, and a horse in an environmentalist community north of Chicago.

Read an Excerpt

Riding Lessons


By Gruen, Sara

HarperTorch

ISBN: 0060580275

Chapter One

"Are you ready?" says Roger as he gives me a leg up, and I laugh, because I've never been so ready in all my life.

And Harry is, too, with his red neck flexed and his ears swiveling like antennae, but never together -- if one is forward the other is back, although sometimes they land impossibly out to the side, like a lop-eared goat's. He stamps and snorts as I lower myself into the saddle and gather the reins, and I forgive him, this time, for not standing still while I mount because while it's terrible manners there are extenuating circumstances and I, too, cannot be still. I run the reins across the black gloves that cover my wet palms and icy fingers and look back at my father, whose face is lined and stern, and then at Roger, who smiles up at me with his face a perfect composite of tension, pride, and joy.

He lays a hand on my booted calf and says, "Give 'em hell, babe," and I laugh again, because I have every intention of doing just that.

And then Marjory is leading us to the gate -- actually holding the reins, as though I can be trusted to take fences of almost five feet but not to steer Harry into the arena.

"Watch your pace going into the combination," she says, "and don't let him rush you. Collect him sharply coming around the turn after the water jump, and if you get past the oxer and you're still clear, hold him back and take it easy because you've already got it even if you take a time fault."

I nod and look across the arena at the judges because I know that already. We can take eight faults and still tie for first, and if we get none or four we've done it, and nobody else has a hope. Marjory is still talking and I nod impatiently and just want to start because Harry and I are going to explode with the excitement of it all, and we're ready, we're ready, oh, we're ready. But I know it's not Marjory who gets to decide so I try to remember to breathe and ignore her and suddenly it's easy, as though I'm in a wind tunnel and all of everything beyond Harry and me is on the outside.

Then I get the signal and I think that it's time to go -- think it, that's all -- and Harry goes, walking forward so deep on the bit his nose is pressed to his chest, and as we step into the arena I can see our shadow on the ground and his tail on end like a flag. The man on the PA introduces us -- Annemarie Zimmer on Highland Harry, with a commanding lead and yadda yadda yadda -- but no one's paying attention because they're staring at Harry. No gasps or murmurs this time, not on day three, but then someone goes and wrecks it because I hear some bastard man say, "Now there goes a horse of a different color," and I know from that one remark that he's missed days one and two and I hate him because I know he feels clever for the remark. But I suppose I'd say it too, since you don't see many or any striped horses out there, and before Harry I never knew such a thing existed, but here he is, and there's no denying that. Not today. Not here.

I hear the whistle and press my calves against him and we're off. Harry shoots forward like a coiled spring, so compressed his haunches feel like they're right under me.

I tighten my fingers, No, no, no Harry, not yet, I'll let you, but not yet, and his ears prick forward, together this time, and he says, All right, and gives me a collected canter that feels like a rocking horse, so high on the up and so low on the down. And we rock around the corner and approach the first jump and he asks me, Now? And I say, No, and he says, Now? And I say No, and then a stride later I can tell he's about to ask again, but before he can I say Yes, and he's off and I don't have to do anything else -- won't have to until we're over and on the other side, and then I'll just have to ask him again, and he'll do it because he loves me and we're one.

There's the flap-flap-flap of leather on leather, the heavy incalzando of hoofbeats, da-da-DA, da-da-DA, da-da-DA, and then a massive push, a hundred thousand compressed pounds exploding forth before --

Silence. As we arc over the fence, the only parts of me in contact with anything are my calves and hands and the balls of my feet although it looks like I'm lying on him, so forward am I and curved around his neck with my face alongside where his mane would be if it weren't braided into a row of nubby topknots. And then bang! We've landed, and as soon as his front hooves make contact with the ground I'm back in the saddle and we're headed toward the brick wall and it's perfect. I can tell we're going to be clear because that's just the way it is.

We're flying now, and it's a wonder to me that we touch the ground at all because clearly we don't need to over one, two, three more fences. I lose remembrance of the order of it but don't need to remember because I feel it ...

Continues...

Excerpted from Riding Lessons by Gruen, Sara Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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