From the author of Veronica, a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, comes Mary Gaitskill's most poignant and powerful work yet: the story of a Dominican girl, the white woman who introduces her to riding, and the horse who changes everything for her.
Velveteen Vargas is an 11-year-old from Brooklyn who is granted a summer vacation in the country, courtesy of the nonprofit Fresh Air Fund. Her host family is a couple in upstate New York: Ginger, a failed artist on the fringe of Alcoholics Anonymous; and Paul, an academic who wonders what it will mean to "make a difference" in such a contrived situation. Here we see the couple's changing relationship with Velvet over the course of several years as well as Velvet's powerful encounter with the horses at the stable down the road, as Gaitskill weaves together Velvet's vital inner-city community and the privileged country world of Ginger and Paul.
The timeless story of a girl and a horse is joined with the story of people from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds trying to meet one another honestly. It is a novel that is raw, striking, and completely original.
©2015 Mary Gaitskill (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Four excellent narrators tell Velvet's story through various points of view in alternating chapters. Each narrator perfectly defines the complexities of the character being portrayed, while showing different sides of Velvet - often not flattering." (AudioFile)
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"Horse people should enjoy this. "
The horse /human relationships are accurate. Interesting comparison of 2 different worlds and the power of the equine bond. Very well written, but I'm extremely disappointed in the ending.
This novel is about a "fresh air" 12 year old city girl, Velvet, who spends two weeks in the country with Ginger and her husband. She falls in love with the horses at the nearby stables. It is a first person narrative, with different narrators each chapter. The start of the novel was very good, but each hour I listened made me less interested. Halfway through (8 hours into this), I just stopped caring and quit. For one thing, very little happened. A slow moving story can be good, but only if the characters are great. I liked the girl, Velvet (good character and great narrator), but none of the adults really came alive to me. Ginger, the main adult, just became less and less believable and less interesting. If it were not such a long book, I might have stayed with it. I also wanted more with the horses.
I love this book! The characters are so real that when the book ended I kept thinking about them and wondering what they were doing in their lives. I think that's the best compliment one can give an author when they create a world that so real we feel like we're missing out because we don't know what's happening in it.
"Give These Characters a Swift Punch in the Face!"
As someone who loved horse stories of all varieties as a kid, I was eager to listen to this retelling of "National Velvet." But the novel is a misstep. All of the characters were unpalatable, perhaps most so the heroine, Velvet, who is an unqualified brat.
That said, the book has its moments, and its narrators went above and beyond. They gave the book life, even if the author did not. The woman who read Ginger should get an award.
But unless you want to spend hours with your hands balled into fists, wishing you could punch characters who are infuriatingly obtuse, unthankful, or downright crazy, I'd suggest you stay away from this book.
"Fantastic audio performances"
This novel features different voices, and the audio format was ideal for presenting this work. The voices were so distinct and really gave me a flavor of the characters. I highly recommend this audio version, even more than the print book – although I've already recommended that to people too.
"Let the Mare Teach You"
I actually really liked this book, even though I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I think the ending was just right.
The premise is that there is a program where inner city children get to go for a summer vacation with families who sign up. Of course, the child has problems (life) and the families (both) have problems (life). But the summer family lives next to a stable, and there is a horse that the girl is attracted to, the horse has the most problems of all. The Mare becomes her own character, and at times symbolizes all of the women in the story.
How can this possibly end good for this child? Well, it is not a perfect world, and there are no perfect answers, but sometimes there are perfect moments, and sometimes we can learn quite a bit about our sanctimonious ways by reading a novel. Well done.
This was a beautifully written book. Narration superb. I do not usually write reviews but this was worth letting others know
Velvet is a young Dominican girl growing up in poverty in NYC. Ginger is a forty-something ex-addict and artist living in the Hudson River Valley. Their lives intersect through the Fresh Air Fund. Velvet's visit leads to long-term relationships with Ginger and Paul (Ginger's husband), but also with the horses in the barn across the street from their home. Velvet falls for one horse in particular, the angry and formerly abused "Fugly Girl." This relationship between horse and girl is transformative for each.
I didn't really love this book for it's plot- I'm not all that interested in horses. What I loved was Gaitskill's empathy, and the way her writing makes us see the world differently. The Mare is written from many points of view: Ginger, Paul, Velvet, Sylvia (Velvet's mother), Pat (horse trainer), Dante (Velvet's brother). Each narrator enriches the story as we see the events unfolding from their particular point of view. This is a story that acknowledges that there are many truths. This is crucial in a book that is so intimately about racial and socioeconomic inequality, it keeps the story from becoming reductionist. The poor dark girl does not teach the rich white people an astoundingly deep lesson. The rich white people do not rescue the poor dark people. This book is richly complicated in it's understanding of difference and of the full complexity of each of the characters as individuals. It reminded me of that Buddhist saying about being kind because each of us is fighting our own battle.
This is a masterful novel, gorgeously rendered. I plan to read everything Mary Gaitskill has ever written.
This was a touching story about a young adolescent, inner city girl finding strength and connection in her relationship with a mare. Beautifully narrated, full of feeling, raw in its truthful depiction of life.
I highly recommend this book to all ages.
"My favorite audiobook ever"
The characters are well-defined. They are different ages, races, classes, genders, have different prior life experiences. When they come together there is combustion that is conflict, courage, eventually community.
The narrators' voices capture the spirit of the characters they read. Each character faces obstacles/challenges, shows strengths and weaknesses, experiences transformation.
I can imagine criticism that says life isn't really like that, people aren't that self-aware, challenges lead to failure more often than they do to growth. But sometimes life is like that and I'm grateful to have these characters to remember.
Plus everything about a horse and an adolescent girl is perfect.
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