A Lonely Newlywed And Her Wayward Brother In Law Follow Divergent And Dangerous Paths Through The Postwar American West Muriel Is Newly Married And Restless, Transplanted From Her Rural Kansas Hometown To Life In A Dusty Bungalow In San Diego The Air Is Rich With The Tang Of Salt And Citrus, But The Limits Of Her New Life Seem To Be Closing In She Misses Her Freethinking Mother, Dead Before Muriel S Nineteenth Birthday, And Her Sly, Itinerant Brother In Law, Julius, Who Made The World Feel Bigger Than She Had Imagined And So She Begins Slipping Off To The Del Mar Racetrack, To Bet And Eavesdrop, Learning The Language Of Horses And Risk Meanwhile, Julius Is Testing His Fate In Las Vegas, Working At A Local Casino Where Tourists Watch Atomic Tests From The Roof, And Falling In Love With Henry, A Young Card Cheat When Henry Is Eventually Discovered And Run Out Of Town, Julius Takes Off To Search For Him In The Plazas And Dives Of Tijuana, Trading One City Of Dangerous Illusions For Another On Swift Horses Is A Debut Of Astonishing Power A Story Of Love And Luck, Of Two People Trying To Find Their Place In A Country That Is Coming Apart Even As It Promised Them Everything NOW AVAILABLE What a thing is progress set in 1956 in the american west, this is a beautifully written book about two characters at odds with the postwar values of a country in the process of redefining itself, promising new opportunities that neither of them want muriel is 21 years old, a newlywed and recent arrival to san diego her progressive, independent mother has recently died, leaving muriel their house in kansas some months later, upon their discharge from the navy, her frequently rebuffed suitor lee and his brother julius come to visit, during which time she develops a bond with julius, who is unlike anyone she has ever met their late night alcohol fueled talks awakening in her a kind of platonic fascination she reluctantly agrees to marry lee and move to california with them, but despite their plans to share a house together, julius is plagued by restlessness and winds up in las vegas, keeping in touch with them sporadically by phone, but unready to settle down into their planned life muriel finds herself, unsurprisingly, unfulfilled by married life, even though she is not confined to the traditional role of a housewife she takes a job waitressing in a restaurant frequented by gamblers with deep ties to the horse racing scene former jockeys and trainers, and she begins to pay attention to their boasts and speculations about specific horses and riders eventually, she starts going to the races herself, placing bets and winning big, a secret she keeps from lee a part of her life that, like her house in kansas, is all her own She is stopped sometimes, at work or waking in the mornings, by a poignant feeling The feeling is like happiness but it comes so slowly and is so austere she might easily mistake it for grief She could not explain it but she knows this feeling has something to do with keeping a secret from Lee, which she had somehow always felt she was doing even before she had a secret to keep If she were a different kind of person she might have wondered whether love was always this way, if it existed in the spaces between people, the parts they kept strange to each other.successfully keeping one secret makes her comfortable with the idea of secrecy, and it gives her the courage and motivation to pursue other previously unconsidered avenues on a path to self discovery, despite the very real risks of her yearnings this is a book i am in no way qualified to review or at least, not in the dinky space goodreads provides for book reflection and i know that sounds like a cop out, but i ve already spent hours writing and revising this, doing actual research ffs, crossing out pages of notes and quotes, reminding myself that i m not getting paid to write this, nor is anyone interested in reading some rando s hot take on sexual repression in the land of the free, or the symbolism of gambling as a conflict between hope and fate, etc a million pages of lit crit on a book that s not out for another three months but that s the kind of book this is it demands thoughtful consideration, it engages the reader in unpacking its depths books like this are why book awards exist, and entire dissertations about gay rights and feminism and the roots of suburban malaise will likely be inspired by this puppy.i m not even going to bother with julius storyline i ve already deleted like thirty paragraphs full of illicitly quoted ARC text and external links because i am a nerd the book is bigger than it appears the writing is chewy, the pacing slow and deliberate, and there s a tendency to imply rather than state instances where characters, we are told, come to realize understand recognize something, without explicitly sharing these revelations with the reader it s a book that rewards the attentive reader, which is pretty ballsy in a day n age favoring instant gratification it s a little steinbeck y, but there s something about it that reminds me of the expatriate lit of hemingway and durrell, although it s not a stylistic or thematic similarity it shouldn t both characters are americans and it is mostly set in the states, with a brief time in mexico, but there s something about how the story plays out, the pacing, the nature of the scenes they almost read like travelogue watching a horse race, playing cards, the way they both but mostly julius interact with the people they meet episodes that seem languid and inconsequential whose symbolic import is frequently buried, left for the reader to mine i can t pinpoint it, but it s something that struck me while i was reading it, which i am mentioning in case anyone else had that experience and can articulate it better than i can it might be as simple as being set in a nation in transition or exploring new landscapes within their country or the fact that both characters feel disconnected from the drive towards staking out new ground, establishing roots through building a home and a family, making them tourists in a cultural sense set apart from the contemporary definitions of success Lee wants a half acre in Mission Valley, on the San Diego River, where they can build a three bedroom and plant fruit trees He has pinned the advertisement above the window in their kitchenette When he and Muriel sit up late smoking and playing cards he tells her about the narrow valley, once settled by missionaries and then by nut and dairy farmers, now divided into lots graded flat and grassless Sometimes he stands and goes to the little window and touches the pastel houses and the long furrow of cypress trees, and though he sighs dramatically and smiles Muriel knows he is not joking She knows that he imagines her there in a real kitchen and a real bed He believes the great future will meet them, in the new suburban landscape i have made a mess of this review, with all my cutting and digressing and overthinking, but i hope it doesn t steer anyone away from reading this it s not a reflection on the book, just my own unbridled or poorly harnessed enthusiasm making a jumble of things this is a fantastic debut and you should read it and review it better than i have full review to come, but i submitted a high five about the book to indie next, using capital letters and everything A densely atmospheric debut sinking its hooks deep into postwar America s tender underbelly, exposing the homophobia and bigotry beneath the nation s renewed spirit of hope and opportunity Muriel and Julius are restless outsiders siblings in law who share a passion for gambling as well as their furtive passions making their own opportunities to find love and happiness a gamble that one will unexpectedly win and one will just as unexpectedly lose An immersive and rewarding first novel.don t i sound all grown up and trustworthy i was already excited to read this ARC, and then when you send someone a cover matching thank you card after meeting them at BEA, you win awards for both style and etiquette the must be read immediately because promises stack is still daunting, but this one has been shifted up.come to my blog I can t remember the last time I read a debut novel where the writing was as self assured as ON SWIFT HORSES The book follows Muriel and her brother in law Julius through alternating points of view, both informing each other in different ways Muriel becomes increasingly interested in gambling on horse racing, and Julius, a card cheat, tries his best to better his own life until he meets another gambler, Henry ON SWIFT HORSES is about so many things love and secrets, gambling and desires, and love is sometimes like gambling Pufahl s sentences are charged with the energy of a body fully alive Her novel is steeped in longing It asks what would happen when confronted with the life you want and what will you do then My favorite book of the year. On Swift Horses is a historical fiction novel, taking place in in the Western United States in the 1950s The three central characters Muriel, Lee, and Julius are all in the midst of change Muriel married Lee and moved from Kansas to San Diego with him and is learning about the horse races and how to continue to grow and mature after her mother s death Lee wants to move to the suburbs and start a family, but Muriel has different plans Lee s brother, Julius, is a staple in both Muriel and Lee s lives and shows them how to live bigger than life Julius is transient than his brother and sister in law and begins working the casino route in Las Vegas There, he meets Henry and the two forge a romantic relationship in secret When Henry runs to Mexico, Julius ventures south to try and find him, learning about himself than he ever thought On Swift Horses is a story about growth and change, and it gives an insider perspective on how the navigate the hurdles that life throws at you.I really enjoyed On Swift Horses and how the story takes you on an original journey through the world of gambling The writing style by author Shannon Pufahl is completely immersive and atmospheric, as well, and this is definitely my strongest takeaway from the novel The story takes you into a world often forgotten in novels, Post World War II, Pre JFK Cold War Era This timeframe is often overlooked in novels, but On Swift Horses really shines a light at this period All three characters are really enjoyable, but Julius s narrative is definitely captivating than Muriel and Lee s point of view While the novel is a bit slower paced than I m used to, this book is really so beautifully written It s definitely one of the best written books I ve read this year and I urge anyone who s looking for a different type of historical fiction to pick it up. Normally I devour good books this one though I needed to savor Even if i wanted to absorb it quickly I d have lost the power of so many harrowing, lustful, devastating, life changing moments you simple need to luxuriate in Plus I love a story with broken, yet unapologetic characters The venn diagram of characters Muriel, her mother s story, Lee, Sandra are one world Julius and Henry are another, but as Muriel and Julius paths cross it s like lightning flashing I wouldn t want to share as every reader of this incredible story deserves to experience it fully for themselves Galley borrowed from the publisher. An interesting evocation of 1950s America and two characters wanting from life than they re supposed to want but the writing style which is all tell , very little show and hardly any dialogue prevented me from getting as involved as I should have Being told with little being dramatised leaves the story flat and I felt held at a distance I wanted direct contact with the characters but the writing technique just didn t allow it Lots of thoughtful stuff here about gambling and risk taking just not written in a style that spoke to me.Thanks to 4th Estate for an ARC via NetGalley. I m so glad to have been sent an advance copy of this book It s a little outside what I usually read, but it was great foray into a slightly different genre The thing that I probably loved most about this was that I could smell the settings and feel the seasons The descriptions of the environment are so evocative and I really felt like I was there The queerness felt both loving and honest as well I m gonna hide one content warning for spoilers but would definitely recommend.Read if you like the plays of Sam Shepard view spoiler Some homophobia throughout mostly between the lines , but specifically in the chapter The Border toward the end there is a violent, anti gay attack and then some descriptions of treating the wounds outside of a medical setting which I could see also being something you wouldn t want to read Also for gambling throughout hide spoiler In the past, I ve described books as slow burns What I usually mean is that, as I read them, I can get a sense of a lit fuse at the center of the book There are little sparks, gathering speed, usually towards some kind of dramatic explosion The tension draws me along because I want to see what happens when the tinder lights Shannon Pufahl s On Swift Horses never really lights my fire This is a slow book It s also a very subtle one In this novel, two LGBT characters carefully navigate their desires whilst keeping their secret in late 1950s California For me, this book moves too slowly and is so subtle that I m not sure I picked up everything that Pufahl put down in its pages Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration. On the surface, this is a novel centered on gambling horses, cards, horses again Below the surface, though, it s about the ways that we gamble with ourselves and what s addictive in that With sublime dexterity and perfect subtlety, Pufahl explores the pieces of her two characters a newlywed and her brother in law that they hide, the pieces that they trade and bury, the pieces that become their masks On Swift Horses is the queer underbelly story of the American West that I didn t know I was dying for I d follow it into its own dance halls and horse races in a heartbeat. DNF 30%On Swift Horses has an almost soporific effect on me Through repeated attempts I managed to read a few paragraphs, at times a few pages even Soon however my eyes would glaze over as my mind wandered away from the page s content.Having read and enjoyed many so called slow burners or bricks such as Middlemarch I m not one to turn away from stories that have a leisurely pacebut there has to be something be it the characters, the story s setting, or the writing itself that holds my attention.The characters in On Swift Horses seem passive paws, they move a bit around their landscape, but their motivations, thoughts, and feelings remain off page The writing is bland and occasionally clumsy There were many scenes that struck me as not very clear cutthere also seemed to be little cohesion in the sequence of events as the scene transitions were less than favourable.As I d rather not wade my way through this novel, I will do myself a favour and skip this one.Read reviews on my blog View all my reviews on Goodreads Hands down one of the best books of 2019 This book captures human emotion in such a stunningly raw way, painting beautiful, haunting scenes that will stay with you long after the book is finished Julius desperate search for his lost love Henry is interspersed with images of a post war country in a time of great change, where hotels advertise nuclear bomb tests in the desert to tourists and the interstate system is just rising up to transform the way we operate Juxtaposed with Julius is the story of his 21 year old sister in law, a midwestern girl who, at the time of Julius undoing, is experiencing an awakening in California Another gorgeous LGBTQ story packed to bursting with all of the beautiful and ugly emotions that come along with being human from Riverhead Books I will be recommending On Swift Horses to everyone.
- 320 pages
- On Swift Horses
- Shannon Pufahl
- 03 August 2018 Shannon Pufahl