Tuesday, August 31, 2010


When Stolen Horses appeared in my mailbox, I looked at the image of prairie sky and grasslands on the cover and sighed. Another western novel about tough men who ride horses and don't commit to relationships. Then I turned the book over and saw that it came from the University of Nebraska Press. Oh. Okay.

Somehow I'd missed Dan O'Brien's other books, but after reading this new novel, he's on my list to catch up with. The story takes place in McDermot, Nebraska, where, as has happened in many other communities in the West, outsiders have moved in, seeking refuge from their hectic city lives. The conflicts that arise from this mix of cultures and attitudes is nothing new. But there's something about O'Brien's interpretation ...

The Native Americans who grazed their horses in the Pawnee Valley were pushed out by the white cattlemen in the late nineteenth century, who also took their horses. Now,  descendants of the cattlemen are feeling pushed out of the same valley by modern outsiders. And everyone is feeling the insidious effects of modern medical practices that discriminate against clients without money. Things escalate after a journalist discovers a medical scandal that epitomizes the issues in this factionalized community.

Of course, the story includes romance (between people young and not-so-young) and horses and the excitement of unpredictable weather.

The prose is strong, the story moves forward without racing, breathless, toward a giant climax (although the ending will surprise and leave you with much to ponder), and, as John Nichols (author of The Milagro Beanfield War) said, "Dan O'Brien is a beautiful and sensitive writer."

NPR’s Alan Cheuse reviewed Stolen Horses on All Things Considered last night. Here's a link to that review.

Happy listening and reading,

Chérie Newman

P.S. Dan O'Brien will be on The Write Question sometime this fall.

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to this one, too--especially after hearing Cheuse's review. Thanks for posting!