by Julie HaleMay, 2007
Spurred by the success of her best-selling novel, Water for Elephants, which was recently named the 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year, HarperCollins is issuing a new paperback edition of Gruen's impressive debut novel, Riding Lessons. Here, Gruen examines the strong, mysterious bond that unites people and horses. Annemarie Zimmer was an Olympic-caliber horsewoman when she suffered a devastatingaccident during her teenage years a tragedy that ended her equestrian career. Twenty years after relinquishing the riding life, Annemarie now divorced and the mother of a rebellious 15-year-old named Eve goes back to the horse farm her family owns in New Hampshire. There, she finds her own mother struggling to maintain the family business while her father slowly succumbs to Lou Gehrig's disease. Annemarie soon takes charge of the farm, devoting much of her time to an old horse that awakens memories of her past life as a rider. When Annemarie discovers the horse is related to her old favorite, Highland Harry, she becomes even more determined to save the farm and her family. Adding to the mix is the presence of an attractive new trainer named Dan, who happens to be Anne-marie's former beau. Gruen's portrait of this unusual family and its shifting relationships is beautifully rendered and sure to appeal to fans of The Horse Whisperer. Yet the book stands on its own as a finely crafted narrative about love, relationships and the important place animals occupy in the human world. A reading group guide is available in the book and online at www.harpercollins.com/readers/.