About a week ago, Natalie Keller Reinert over at Retired Racehorse asked if I could read her debut novella, The Head and Not The Heart, and give a review here on the blog. I always enjoy Natalie's blog and writing style, and so I naturally agreed.
The novella asks a question that most, if not all, equestrians have asked themselves at one point or another - could I ever live this life without horses? What hard-working horsewoman (or man) has not stumbled into the barn before the sunrise at least once and wondered, how does it feel to be still sleeping right now? How many horse people have slaved day in and day out for their animals and not sat down and asked themselves at some point, why do I put myself through so much exhaustion and heartbreak? In The Head and Not The Heart, our main character Alex goes through the same thought process we are all so familiar with when she and her lover-slash-boss Alexander experience not one but two terrible losses in their stable. Alex feels the sting of grief and despair, feeling empty and distant from her lover, her farm and the horses in her care. On a business trip to the Aqueduct track in New York City, Alex branches out, explores externally and internally, and asks herself, "Do I want a life without horses? And even if I did, could I live a life without horses?"
The novella is great. I personally felt that the first chapter felt different from the rest of the book - like the engine was being warmed and there wasn't as much flow - but once the second chapter began, everything flowed smoothly and I was pulled right in. The story is richly detailed, and it is clear the author is well-versed in all areas of the subject matter, from the leg movement of a potentially injured horse to the atmosphere of a Florida horse town to the interior of the Aqueduct barns. She knows these settings and she doesn't miss a detail. You can almost taste the grime of a side street in Brooklyn, and you can exactly picture what the old Claremont Riding Academy looked like even if you had no idea of what it once was. The author maintains her recurring theme of thinking with the head and not the heart - or vise versa - in the horse industry and in life throughout the duration of the book, a little ribbon of thought strongly sewing the entire story together. My favorite part of the story was the fact that the question of whether not the main character could live without horses or not was not predictable or clear throughout the story. Only in the last chapter do you find out whether or not she can. The story could have gone either way in the end, and I loved that. I have a feeling that if the entire last chapter was completely rewritten, it could still be just as good of an ending. As for what the answer to the question is, you'll have to wait and find out for yourself.
I look forward to the next book. If this is a debut novella, the stories can only get richer from here.
Read a bit more about the book here! The book is not yet available on paper, but you can get an ebook here as well!
The very special Ridgeway weekend
3 days ago