The Sequel to Monte Walsh
I’d call Molly Gloss’ The Hearts of Horses almost a sequel to Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer, and I consider Monte Walsh one of the perfect novels. The writing is superb, in that run-on raconteur style that feels like the easy canter of a horse. It’s 1917, and young Martha Leeson leaves home to become an itinerant bronco buster, only she’s a horse whisperer instead and she doesn’t get that far from home, either.
This book works on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin. It’s a book about World War I at home, it’s a book about coming of age, it’s a book about the loss of the American west, it’s about the failed government program to settle the West with farmers, it’s about the American cowboy, only this time she’s a girl. The circle ride is a terrific device for telling not only Martha’s story but the stories of all the ranchers and farmers for whom she is breaking horses, not to mention a look through Gloss’s eyes at the loneliness and beauty of the western Oregon landscape.
Mostly, I think, this is a story about Martha, a young woman from an abusive home who is so lonely and unsocialized (for lack of a better word) that she literally doesn’t know what people mean when they speak to her. As she breaks the horses, so does the community gentle her into being one of their own.
This would be a terrific book club book.
And just for fun, here’s the trailer for the Tom Selleck film version of Monte Walsh. It’s pretty good.
Dana View All →
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.
Dana — I just finished this book! Once I grew accustomed to what you so aptly call the “run-on raconteur style” of writing, I thoroughly enjoyed Martha’s story. At one point, I dug out a book I have called Cowgirls: Women of the American West by Teresa Jordan. When I finished the book and read the acknowledgments, it turns out Cowgirls was the inspiration for the novel!
Try Monte Walsh if you haven’t yet, Kaylene. It’s by the guy who wrote Shane, and is the far superior book. I wish I could assign it to every high school junior in America.
Would you assign Shane or Monte Walsh? My students don’t read and say they don’t like any topic. I am very afraid for the future these kiddos will create.
Not a teacher, so take what I say with a grain of salt, okay? I liked Monte Walsh much more than Shane. If it would help get the kids interested, there is a good movie with Tom Selleck and Isabella Rosellini that might help the book go down easier. But it is such a terrific book (my Goodreads review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/35030129) and what kid doesn’t love a cowboy story? You could design some amazing lesson plans around the book’s themes, too–frontiers, America and manifest destiny, women of the West, the coming of the railroads, the Lincoln County War. You could work in current affairs, like that standoff right now in the Oregon wildlife refuge. It could be so much fun!
Just finished this book. Your review was right on the money. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
I’m so glad to have turned you onto it, Diana.