The Year of the Horses: A Memoir

Courtney Maum. Tin House, $27.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-953-53415-6

In this wry and tender account, novelist Maum (Costalegre) chronicles her attempt to rekindle joy through a return to her childhood love of horseback riding. Three decades after her last ride, Maum was spurred to get back in the saddle when, as a new mother in her mid-30s, she became depressed. “Frequently referred to as a ‘stealth therapy,’ interaction with horses has been known to benefit people,” she writes. “If you aren’t calm, the horse won’t be, either.” She charts her “mental health improvement spree” with sardonic humor and a discerning gaze (upon first meeting her therapist, she laments, “there is no way I can bare my soul to a twentysomething in a Livestrong bracelet”). Meanwhile, despite the “violent” nature of polo, she takes up the sport and rediscovers her sensuality, a liberating contrast to her writing career and struggle to get pregnant again. Interspersed throughout are entertaining morsels of horse culture history—from polo’s contested origins in either China or Persia to the hero’s drowning horse in The NeverEnding Story. While cynics might categorize Maum’s memoir as a midlife crisis story, she resists the label: “When we bang our fists against the bars of middle age, it’s usually because there is a voice within us that is sick to death of going unused.” Her account of recovering that voice is vivid and exuberantly cathartic. (May)
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