Painted Horses

Brooks, Malcolm

Published by Grove Press, 2015
ISBN 10: 0802123813 / ISBN 13: 9780802123817
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Synopsis: Engrossing . . . The best novels are not just written but built scene by scene, character by character until a world emerges for readers to fall into. Painted Horses creates several worlds in a seamless and ambitious blend of history, romance, archaeology and nature. . . . Hard to forget.” Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today (4 out of 4 stars)

In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress clear to the horizon, while the West was still very much wild. In Painted Horses, now in paperback, a dauntless woman travels into that untamed landscape in an adventure that will change her life. Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist who’s come to Montana with a huge task before her a canyon as deep as the devil’s own appetites.” Working ahead of a major dam project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is what she expects. John H is a former mustanger with an intuitive genius for breaking horses. A veteran of the U.S. Army’s last mounted cavalry campaign, he lives a fugitive life, driven by pursuit of one last wild thing. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than just the vanished past. Painted Horses sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and progress, often make strange bedfellows.

Extraordinary . . . Surprising and satisfying . . . Brooks has fashioned compelling and sympathetic protagonists. . . . John H orphan, rail rider, cowboy, World War II veteran, Paris artist, canyon hermit in particular, has a backstory that is both intimate and sweeping in a way that may remind readers of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. . . . Painted Horses is, after all, one of those big, old-fashioned novels where the mundane and the unlikely coexist.” Kent Black, Boston Globe

Malcolm Brooks’ novel has the hard thrill of the West, when it was still a new world, the tenderness of first love and the pain of knowledge. This book is a gripping, compulsively readable page-turner.” Amy Bloom, author of Away

Review:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2014: It’s tempting to dismiss Malcolm Brooks’s debut as the latest in a series of American epics treading on Cormac McCarthy territory: The Son, Fourth of July Creek, and The Kept come to mind as recent novels dealing with the darker realities of frontiers, both geographical and personal. Like The Son, Painted Horses positions itself at the moment the frontier era gives way to modernity: in mid-century Montana, a dam project threatens to flood a canyon historically inhabited by Native Americans, submerging thousands of years of Crow history under hundreds of feet of slack water. When the inexperienced Catherine Lemay is appointed to survey the canyon for cultural evidence that could thwart the dam-builders, she assumes one corner of a Faustian triangle with a scheming hydroelectric shill and the mysterious John H., a rugged, reticent horse whisperer who opens the secrets of the country to the young archaeologist. Tangled relationships, difficult decisions, and hard compromises ensue. Decades and continents are spanned, and history unfolds. Maybe we’ve read this before?

But dismissing Painted Horses for its Western tropes would ignore just how good this book is. Brooks's prose is stylistically bold, announcing his artistic aspirations from the opening sentence. His characters are carefully drawn, yet their intentions remain ambiguous enough to be authentically human. His Montana is vivid, wild, and broad, and it’s obvious that Brooks lives where he writes, and loves where he lives. Ultimately, Brooks accomplishes no small feat in this remarkable debut: a tale of literary ambition that lives comfortably inside its genre roots, but not by its conventions.--Jon Foro

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Title: Painted Horses
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: 2015
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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