Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chosen By a Horse - a memoir ( Book Review)

Chosen by a Horse ISBN 978-0-15-603117-2
by Susan Richards, published by Harcourt, Inc., copyright 2006
248 pages

Author Susan Richards deeply touched my heart with her memoir, originally published in 2006. Subtitled "How a broken horse fixed a broken heart", she tells the story of Lay Me Down, an abused race horse that she adopted, and how, in the process of healing the horse, the horse healed her.

I liked the matter-of-fact way Susan gradually reveals the emotional and physical abuse she suffered as a child, and the lack of self-pity in her narrative. She dwells not on her past but on the healing process and her life with her horses.

Richards makes no excuses for her alcoholic and promiscuous youth, nor for her divorce or her decade of anti-social isolation. She acknowledges the damage and focuses on her gradual recovery, driven by her love for her horses and in particular, the mare she rescued.

I avoid most memoirs of an abusive childhood or marriage. I dislike reading the details of someone else's pain, and too frequently, such books are riddled with excuses and blame. I marvel that Susan Richards manages to escape those traps, and consider it clear proof that her broken horse truly did fix her broken heart. Her story is upbeat but relentlessly honest, a combination irresistible to me.

Richards integrates her painful childhood, chaotic youth and angry adult years to reveal a charming, mature woman capable of deep friendship and compassion, love and generosity of spirit, but not a soft person, rather, a woman of strength and courage of the most rare kind - with the courage to face herself and her history, her feelings and hopes, with unflinching honesty and acceptance.

Books are my friends, have been my friends all my life. Chosen by a Horse is very good friend indeed, the kind that wears well and demonstrates qualities I want to imitate in my own life, the kind of friend that makes me a better person than I would be without them.

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