The Mare

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The Mare Fiction
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Product Description

Following her National Book Award–nominated Veronica, here is Mary Gaitskill’s most poignant and powerful work yet—the story of a Dominican girl, the Anglo woman who introduces her to riding, and the horse who changes everything for her. Velveteen Vargas is eleven years old, a Fresh Air Fund kid from Brooklyn. Her host family is a couple in upstate New York: Ginger, a failed artist and shakily recovered alcoholic, and her academic husband, Paul, who wonder what it will mean to “make a difference” in such a contrived situation. Gaitskill illuminates their shifting relationship with Velvet over several years, as well as Velvet’s encounter with the horses at the stable down the road—especially with an abused, unruly mare called Fugly Girl. With strong supporting characters—Velvet’s abusive mother, an eccentric horse trainer, a charismatic older boy who awakens Velvet’s nascent passion—The Mare traces Velvet’s journey between the vital, violent world of the inner city and the world of the small-town stable. In Gaitskill’s hands, the timeless story of a girl and a horse is joined with a timely story of people from different races and classes trying to meet one another honestly. The Mare is raw, heart-stirring, and original.

Editorial Reviews

A young Dominican girl from the mean streets of Brooklyn forges a relationship with a white woman living in a bucolic upstate town and learns to love horses and respect herself.Eleven-year-old Velvet has a soft name, but there's nothing even remotely plush about her life in a rough part of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Abused (mostly, but not only, verbally) by her mother, a tough immigrant, Velvet has little to call her own (she keeps her treasured objects—a shell, a dried sea horse, a broken keychain doll—in an old cotton-ball box in the back of a closet) and few friends, almost no one she can trust. Velvet's mother clearly prefers her 6-year-old son, Dante, singing him to sleep at night with her back to Velvet in the family's shared bed. Instead of comfort and cuddles, Velvet gets the message that she's "no good"—not that it's really her fault; it's just that her blood is bad. While Velvet craves her mother's love and attention, Ginger, a 47-year-old sometime artist recovering from alcoholism and drug abuse, an abusive relationship, and the death of her troubled sister, finds herself yearning for a child. Now living a comfortable life in upstate New York with Paul, her college-professor husband, Ginger has decided to "test the waters" of adoption by hosting a Fresh Air Fund kid for a couple of weeks, a commitment that stretches far longer and deeper. That's how Velvet and Ginger meet, and it's also how Velvet meets a mistrustful and mistreated horse at the stable next door to Ginger's house, the horse the others call "Fugly Girl" and she renames "Fiery Girl," whom she will tame and train, and who will do the same for her. Alternating primarily between Velvet's and Ginger's perspectives, with occasional observations from other characters, National Book Award finalist Gaitskill (Veronica, 2005, etc.) takes a premise that could have been preachy, sentimental, or simplistic—juxtaposing urban and rural, rich and poor, young and o ld, brown and white—and makes it candid and emotionally complex, spare, real, and deeply affecting. Gaitskill explores the complexities of love (mares, meres…) to bring us a novel that gallops along like a bracing bareback ride on a powerful thoroughbred. Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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