November 2015 Indie Next List
“The Mare is the heart-wrenching story of a young inner-city girl in the Fresh Air Fund program who travels to a host family in upstate New York, where she befriends a frightened and abused racehorse at a nearby stable. Gaitskill navigates the ugly realities of both human and equine abuse, but, ultimately, this is a triumphant novel shaped by authentic characters and in which trust and determination win. Readers will be reminded of how our real-life connections with animals can both guide and heal.”
— Nancy Scheemaker (W), Northshire Bookstore Saratoga, Saratoga Springs, NY
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.
About the Author
MARY GAITSKILL is the author of the story collections Bad Behavior, Because They Wanted To (nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award), and Don't Cry, and the novels Veronica (nominated for a National Book Award) and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories.