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The Mare

The Mare - Mary Gaitskill This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life

I didn't really know much about this story before I decided to give it a try. I think I really wanted to get lost in a story that was focused on a horse. I did end up getting completely pulled into this story but I quickly found out that this story really isn't about a horse. Sure, there is a horse in the story but this is really a story about a group of people tied to one another just trying to get through life. This book was very different that I thought it would be but it ended up taking me on a fantastic journey.

This story is told from four different points of view. For Velvet, this book really is a coming of age story. Velvet starts the story as an eleven-year-old Dominican girl from a poor family. She goes to stay with a family for a couple of weeks in the summer as part of the Fresh Air fund. Ginger also learns a lot about herself during the course of the story. She is a recovering alcoholic who has never had children but decides to be a host family for the program. Paul goes through a lot of changes during the story. He is a professor and sometimes is a little more hesitant to be so involved with Velvet so much as compared to his wife. The fourth point of view comes from Velvet's mother who is a single mother trying to support her two children alone in a country where she is not able to speak the language. Velvet's mom is difficult to like but by the end of the story I felt that I understood her even if I didn't agree with how she chose to do things.

This book is beautiful in many ways and heartbreaking in others. I found at the beginning of the story that I really liked the parts of the book told by Velvet. I wanted hear her thoughts about riding horses and her attraction to that one special horse, Fiery girl. As I learned more about Velvet's life at home in the city, I found myself wanting to cheer her on and encourage her. Ginger took a while to grow on me but the more that I understood her the more I found myself able to understand why she was so determined to be a part of Velvet's life. She really did care about the girl and the connection between them felt very real to me. I loved the horses in the story and all of the people at the stable. Velvet's connection to the animals and the pride she had in riding them was beautifully written.

The four narrators of the audiobook did an amazing job. Each voice was very distinctive and really brought the characters to life. If I had been reading a paper copy of this book, these four voices would have been exactly as I would have imagined the characters to sound. The emotions of each of the characters really came through in the narration. Velvet and her mother both were very animated and their feelings were usually on the surface. Ginger and Paul were more guarded and the narrators did a wonderful job of expressing that aspect of their personality. I think that the four narrators really worked well when everything came together in the book. I really think that they all did an equally wonderful job and liked all of their styles. I never had a favorite of the group or one I didn't want to hear. I actually think that the alternating narrators really helped the different viewpoints work well in this audiobook.

I really enjoyed this story. All of the things that Velvet, her mother, Ginger, and Paul go through during the span of the story really kept my interest level high. I never felt like the story lagged at any point. The pacing was well done with parts of the book devoted to character development and others sections that moved the plot forward. There were more than a few parts of the book that made me cringe but I think that those parts really helped make the story feel more realistic. This is a book that really gets its strength from its characters. The characters in the book are all very flawed and seem very lifelike to me.

I would highly recommend this audiobook to others. I think that I got more out of the story by going the audio route because the narrators really did a superb job. This is the first book by Mary Gaitskill that I have read and I plan to look for her works in the future.

I received a review copy of this book from Blackstone Audio via Audiobook Jukebox for the purpose of providing an honest review.

Initial Thoughts
I liked this one a lot. The story was very involved with a lot of layers. The characters were all very flawed and realistic. This book was narrated by 4 individuals and the narration was superbly done. Each of the narrators really helped bring the books characters to life and tell the story.