The Horse Whisperer is a story made in Hollywood heaven. The novel was written by a first-time author, and the film option was snapped up by aging heartthrob Robert Redford for 3 million smackers. Why take such risks on a brand-spanking-new author? The answer becomes clear upon reading the touching tale.
One morning while teenage Grace Maclean is riding Pilgrim, her goofy, loveable pony, she has a horrendous glass-shattering, bone-splintering, ligament-lynching meeting with a megaton truck that leaves her and her four-legged friend damaged in mind, body, and spirit. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, her jaded, brilliant, bitchy mom, Annie Graves (Kristin Scott Thomas in the 1998 film) is working out a wrinkle in her self-absorbed existence when she gets a call at her plush, Manhattan office about Grace's accident. Racked with guilt, Graves makes it her calling to find the mythical horse whisperer, an equine Zen master who has the ability to heal horses (and broken souls) with soothing words and a gentle touch. Just when it seems he can't be found, what do you know, she finds him. He arrives in the form of Tom Booker-- a rugged, sensitive, dreamy cowboy who helps Pilgrim and Grace repair their fractured selves. To add more mesquite to fire, Booker has a way with not-so-injured, attractive, married women--like Annie. As the plot thickens, so does the familial strife, which threatens to undo Booker's healing work.
Like an expert cinematographer, Evans deftly crafts each scene with precision and clarity, sprinkling in ominous signs and foreboding images. For example, in the opening paragraphs, as Annie starts out on the tragic ride, she comes across a bloody bird wing that seems to have fallen out of nowhere. The weight of impending doom is further strengthened by the truck driver's bad luck--he has a run-in with the highway patrol just moments before his meeting with Grace and Pilgrim. These not-so-subtle subliminal messages are masterfully stitched in throughout the story and may compel readers to act as if they were watching a B-grade horror movie, shouting aloud, "Don't go there!" However sentimental, The Horse Whisperer is an engaging read, sort of like a finely tuned, well-edited film. --Rebekah Warren